KAMCHATKA KRAI, Russia (Zenger News) — A Russian motorist captured video while driving through a huge ‘tornado’ of millions of randy mosquitoes looking to mate.
The unusual phenomenon was filmed in the village of Ust-Kamchatsk in the far-eastern Russian region of Kamchatka Krai on July 17. Alexei Ponomarev, a resident of the Ust-Kamchatsky region, took the video.
Ponomarev said he was driving for hundreds of yards through the swarm and was unable to see properly. He described “pillars” of insects that formed, dispersed and reformed in the sky above him, and said he “didn’t dare” open the car windows.
Local entomologist Lyudmila Lobkova reassured residents that the phenomenon is not dangerous.
“There is nothing wrong here, they are male mosquitoes that do not hunt warm-blooded animals, but circle around one or several females in order to mate,” Lobkova said.
Previous studies of the phenomenon suggest the “pillars” form around “swarm markers” on the ground, such as puddles or other objects.
Although males do not bite, the females do, and there seemed to be plenty of both sexes during the giant mating ritual.
According to local media, the phenomenon is nothing new to locals, who witness the ritual every summer, and the number of mosquitoes varies each year along with the weather conditions.
“It seems to me that there are more this year than usual,” Ponomarev wrote on the video clip.
The far-eastern Russian village of Ust-Kamchatsk is surrounded by tundra and swamps so mosquitoes and midges are commonplace. Residents say they have to run from building to building in the summer to avoid getting bitten, and that the mosquitoes will even bite in the middle of a rainstorm, undaunted by the water.
The pesky insects have been known to squeeze into houses despite nets on windows and doors.
There are several species of mosquitoes in the Kamchatsk region. Videos of the tornado swarms went viral on Russian social media last summer too, when unusually hot weather caused larger clouds of insects.
However, the ‘tornadoes’ can prove unsettling for tourists and visitors who are not aware of the phenomenon.
A 2019 study published in the PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases journal found that increasing global temperatures could lead to more exposure to mosquito-borne illnesses such as dengue, yellow fever and Zika. Europe had the largest projected increases in population risk in the study.
“Our findings support the expectation that climate change will expand and increase Aedes–borne viral transmission risk,” the authors wrote.
It’s not clear if the Ust-Kamchatsk mosquitoes captured in the video carry disease, though the study supports the link between warmer weather and larger swarms.
(Edited by Stella Grace Lorence and Kristen Butler)