Meet the Mosquito Man, who is on a quest — bite by bite — to understand why Colorado is a West Nile virus hot spot |

Meet the Mosquito Man, who is on a quest — bite by bite — to understand why Colorado is a West Nile virus hot spot

It takes mosquitoes, sure, but also water, birds and people in the wrong place at the wrong time

John Ingold
The Colorado Sun
Biology professor and filmmaker Bob Hancock, who studies mosquitoes at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, watches as Sabethes chloropterus mosquitoes feed on his hand. Hancock helps conduct field work to collect mosquitoes around various regions in Colorado to track diseases like West Nile virus. He often "self-feeds" the insects for them to access human blood, and says he sees only mild reactions afterward.
Olivia Sun/The Colorado Sun

The Mosquito Man enters his lab with the energy of a kid bounding into a Chuck E. Cheese.

All his friends are inside. There in one small screen-and-plexiglass enclosure is Sabethes cyaneus, a mosquito with an iridescent blue body and feathery paddles — what one researcher has called the “Hollywood showgirls of the mosquito world.” They float inside the box like dandelion seeds in the breeze.

But the mosquito that has his attention for the moment is Sabethes chloropterus, a colony of which he derived from mosquitoes he first captured on an island in Panama as a graduate student. It has been a few days since this colony has eaten, he explains. They must be hungry.

The Mosquito Man — Metropolitan State University of Denver biology professor Bob Hancock — rolls up his sleeve and sticks his right arm through a shrouded hole into their plexiglass home. The mosquitoes latch onto his hand. One. Two. Five. Fifteen. Forty.

“Oh, this is a good feed,” he says, as the mosquitoes linger on his hand, growing sluggish the more of him they drink in.

For Hancock, who studies mosquitoes, bed bugs and other insects most people would rather not spend time around, this is just another Wednesday morning. And the blood sacrifice is just part of the job for a scientist whose CV contains research titles like “Analysis of a complex vertical copulatory-courtship display in the yellow fever vector Sabethes chloropterus.”

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