Malaria kills over half a million people each year, but science has a new ally in the war on the blood-borne illness.
Which is great news! Let’s take a look at our friendly little helper so we might heap accolades on..
That harbinger of nightmares is Evarcha culicivora, more lovingly called the vampire spider.
And it is called the vampire spider because of its love of human blood. That’s all it wants. Its value is in how much it wants human blood, to the point that it only eats mosquitoes that have recently sucked human blood.
Their eyes have adapted to be able to tell by the tilt of a mosquito’s abdomen if it has just fed, and they don’t eat it unless it has fed to the point of being full of juicy, delicious human blood. Since the mosquitoes transmit malaria by spreading blood between people, it seems like the perfect match.
Here is a reassuring quote from Dr. Fiona Cross, who has been part of the team studying these spiders for the last 15 years and is suggesting promoting their propagation wherever mosquitoes are.
“Like Bram Stoker’s Dracula or Arnold Schwarzenegger in the James Cameron movie The Terminator, these little specialist predators ignore any other insects that get in the way as they pursue their target victims – mosquitoes.”
Wait, that’s the opposite of reassuring. Dracula feasted on many victims over his long unlife. As for the Terminator, let’s see how well he sticks to his task of pursuing his lone target, Sarah Connor, and ignoring everything else.
Oh look! He just kills basically everyone he comes across during the run of the movie! And that’s just from the first movie, since that was singled out by the researcher. The kill counts only get higher as the series progresses, because, as is implied by the name, TERMINATORS TERMINATE PEOPLE.
So, thanks, Dr. Scientist Lady, for not at all assuaging my fears by comparing these spiders to monsters known for preying on people.
But really, how deep can the blood lust go? After all, they’re still just eating mosquitoes. Let’s see what Professor Robert Jackson, the other researcher in this merry band of bad idea espousers, has to say.
“[These spiders are] found in Kenya and are attracted to human odour (particularly the odour of dirty socks). This little spider is a predator that likes us and eats our enemies. By eating blood-filled mosquitoes, this spider also acquires a blood perfume that is attractive to members of the opposite sex.”
Oh. The vampire spider not only likes eating our blood, it makes a blood-based perfume for use in spider sex parties. And it’s drawn to our dirty socks (and presumably shoes) so that it’ll just hang out where we put our feet in blindly. Yes. That is not terrifying at all. Thanks again for the reassurances, Prof Science Guy!
The researchers are also quick to point out that the spiders are no threat to us, as they don’t have the mouth parts necessary to pierce our skin and take our blood from us directly. Which is wonderful, except for three things:
- A little idea called EVOLUTION, which suggests they could develop those mouth parts, especially if the scientists allow them to succeed in killing all the mosquitoes. Then they would need to adapt to be able to go right to the source.
- The fact that people go to sleep and have orifices the spiders could enter, allowing them easy access to all of our precious bodily fluids.
- That these “researchers” could in fact just be thousands of tiny spiders in a human skin disguise, trying to get us to let down our guard.