September 19, 2010

Vampires! And why Garlic is your best friend

I am back boys and girls and ready to go for this blog. Though I'm sure it's mostly self indulgent for me I will still continue to post, even if my audience is an assortment of friends and family (thanks by the way!)

So today I'm going to go over Vampirism.

No, not that guy. Too classy

No not him. Far too many redeeming characteristics

Oh hell no.

No no what I'm talking about today are the real blood suckers of the world, creatures that practice hematophagy. I am of course speaking of the typical annoying pests that come to mind, mosquitoes, lice, fleas, ticks, Edward Cullen, lawyers, leeches all of them share the same urge to drink blood. Now why is that?

Well first lets go over what blood (human blood for simplicity's sake) is made of. What we call 'blood' are in fact red and white blood cells suspended in plasma. The plasma itself is approximately 91% water, providing the necessary water for any given organism, and contains dissolved proteins, glucose, carbon dioxide, mineral elements, hormones, platelets and the blood cells themselves. The most abundant cell in blood is of course the red blood cell which carries oxygen using a heme group.

Now looking over this list, it becomes pretty apparent that blood is pretty nutritious and would satisfy many creatures in their search for water, protein, minerals etc... In fact the Maasai of Tanzania actually drink blood straight from their cattle, offering further proof of its inherently nutritious, if slightly off-putting, nature.

So we've established why these little bloodsuckers...well suck blood. For creatures adapted to get it it is a constantly renewed resource (in fact a reason for feces to be brown is its coloration by red blood cells, so every day blood cells are vacated and replaced). They are however, almost universally considered to be pests at best. More often, however they are considered dangerous as (mosquitoes and fleas specifically) have been known to carry many different kinds of deadly diseases such as Lime disease, West Nile virus, among others.

Now, back to the whole Halloween theme here.

Commonly held mythology states that garlic repels vampires. I always thought that was odd. Crosses I understood, assuming Vampires were strictly demonic, but garlic always puzzled me. It seems though that our mythology is teaching us a lesson. Garlic does in fact prevent mosquitoes as well as other bloodsucking creatures. The reasons for this are many. Firstly, mosquitoes don't really have an olfactory sense like you or I have, they only smell a very narrow range of scents, most specifically a sweet scent. As a result of garlic's rather pungent smell (caused by a relatively high concentration of diallyl disulfide) covers the scent to mosquitoes and allows the person to get by unbitten. Thanks to convergent evolution, many other creatures share the same kind of ability to find their next meal. In addition garlic possesses the chemical allicin, which is garlic's natural defense mechanism against pests anyhow. So in effect having garlic or eating garlic makes you have poison in your veins to the parasites, and makes you smell bad to them (and your significant other)

Keep this in mind folks, as bed bugs and fleas are running rampant this time of the year. A good cheap way to deal with them is to make them not want to bite you

Thanks for reading