The Mosquito (Timothy Winegard, 2019)

The perilous pesky bug

The mosquito has preyed on the human race from the beginning, and the toll has been immense. “The mosquito has killed more people,” Timothy Winegard reports, “than any other cause of death in human history” [p. 2]. Yet, as annoying as we find the mosquito’s bite, it is the diseases she carries that are deadly. Yellow fever, dengue, West Nile, Zika, and malaria are only five of the over 15 diseases this insect carries and distributes—and the mosquito is found virtually in every corner of the earth. Death and chronic debilitating illness continue to this day.

The Mosquito is marred by too much detail and speculation, and a tendency towards flowery prose that I found distracting. Still, when the mosquito is included in the story of human history, it changes our perspective. Alexander the Great, for example, was not stopped in his empire building by foreign armies—he likely died from malaria caught as his army slogged through marshy terrain.

Book reviewed: The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator by Timothy C. Winegard (New York, NY: Dutton; 2019) 442 pages + bibliography + notes + index