Death by a Million Mosquitos

Josh Orter

While the perils of Zika have mosquitos in the news, an especially large and fearless swarm made me wonder about something more immediate while sitting in my back yard. How many mosquitos would it take to bleed me dry? 

With visions of my exsanguinated corpse lying beneath the tomato vines, I set out to find out the bloodsucking capacity of Aedes aegypti, star of summer’s hysterical news reports and wide-ranging enough to feast on most Americans. At a weight of 2 to 2.5 milligrams this flying syringe can suck up to three times its own weight in blood. Minuscule though this may be, it’s like an adult slurpring up something like 45 gallons of soup. But, needing to be maneuverable enough to avoid high-velocity hands, it usually takes a more polite meal of merely double its weight. A liter of human blood weighs roughly 1000 grams (1060 to be precise), so this works out to about 5 millionths of a liter — 5 microliters (μL). 

Next up, how much blood do I have? Multiple sources put the average at 5 liters for an adult male with women having somewhat less. So at 5 μL per serving, I’d make for a million meals. 

Not so many can feast at once, however. My entirely non-scientific estimation is that a mosquito needs a minimum of one square centimeter to land and, at an average of 1.5 square meters of usable, non-skull skin for an adult, there’s seating for 15,000 at the banquet. 

One million meals / 15,000 mosquitos per seating = 66 seatings.

Now let’s introduce time. Drawing roughly 1.25 microliters per minute, bloodsucking takes four minutes. So with 15,000 vampires feasting @ 1.25 µl per minute it works out to 18,750 μL pumped from my body every minute.  1.125 liters per hour. 

With 5 liters in my veins, there are 5,000,000 microliters on tap.
5,000,000 μL / 18,750 μL per minute = 266.66 minutes.

So, assuming my blood continued to magically pump to the surface, it would take just 4 hours and 26 minutes to be drained to the last drop.

My sacrifice would not be in vain. With female mosquitos producing 250 or more eggs from one meal, my life blood would have the potential to give birth to a quarter billion larvae.

How comforting.