What Would Happen If Mosquitoes Went Extinct?

From a human perspective, mosquitoes suck. They suck our blood and transmit all manner of disease like yellow fever, malaria and West Nile virus. In fact, Mosquito.org says these nasty buggers cause over one million deaths per year, making them one of the world's deadliest species, and one of the animals most likely to get voted off the island, so to speak. 

Even though it would be lovely if we just told all mosquitoes "You're Fired," we wouldn't have to — because not all mosquitoes are actually all that bad, at least for us human-types. BBC notes that there are around 3,500 known mosquito species, and only females from about six percent of these species draw blood from humans. From there, only half of those species carry disease, which adds up to about 100 species. Unfortunately, the BBC article says that these 100 species still put half the world at risk for a mosquito-borne illness

For what it's worth, we have the technology to begin the eradication process. According to the BBC, between 2009 and 2010 a biotech company called Oxitec was able to reduce targeted mosquito populations by 96 percent after releasing a genetically modified mosquito incapable of fully reproducing. The company has since partnered with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue its work fighting malaria. 

So, say we choose to eradicate an infectious mosquito species. Is it wise? In this Forbes article, Matan Shelomi, Assistant Professor of Entomology at National Taiwan University argues that if done properly, the pros would likely outweigh the cons. Shelomi claims that while mosquitoes are pollinators and dietary fixtures for many species, their role is minimal enough that most animal species that consume them wouldn't miss them, especially if we only get rid of the harmful species without the use of pesticides and other more invasive measures. 

Shelomi continues by arguing that the worst-case scenario is one mosquito species being replaced by another even more deadly or annoying one. So while playing God isn't something to be taken lightly, it appears that very careful, selective eradication of mosquito populations would be a net positive for humanity, so long as we don't get rid of all the ones that contribute to plant and animal life around the world.