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The physics of mosquito takeoffs shows why you don’t feel a thing

Even when full of blood, the insect’s wings do the heavy lifting, so its legs barely need to push

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6:00pm, October 18, 2017
photomontage of mosquito taking off

UP AND AWAY  A blood-bloated mosquito gets more than 60 percent of its takeoff force from its wings, helping it hoist its heavy body into the air and fly away undetected, as seen in this photomontage.

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Discovering an itchy welt is often a sign you have been duped by one of Earth’s sneakiest creatures — the mosquito.

Scientists have puzzled over how the insects, often laden with two or three times their weight in blood, manage to flee undetected. At least one species of mosquito — Anopheles coluzzii — does so by relying more on lift from its wings than push from its legs to generate the force needed to take off from a host’s skin, researchers report October 18 in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

The mosquitoes’ undetectable departure, which lets them avoid being smacked by an annoyed host, may be part of the reason A. coluzzii so effectively spreads malaria, a parasitic disease that kills hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Researchers knew that

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