1700s and belief in the limits of mosquitoes' flight ability?

One of the local legends is that city streets in Columbia SC were designed to be wide was that in olden times it was believed that mosquitoes could not fly more than 60 feet at one time.

I’ve been unable to find anything corroborating this belief. I have found references to limits on the flight of skeeters, but so far nothing as short as 60ish feet. So, the GQ:

Can anyone dig up any contemporary corroboration that in the late 1700s (or earlier)that it was a belief (anywhere) that mosquitoes had a very, very limited flight distance ability?

I personally find it puzzling that in an area where mosquitoes thrive in the warmer months that anyone could have bought into that, even in the 18th century.

Why would this influence the widths of the city streets?

I could see them doing this if, say, woods or stagnant water were on one side of the street and houses on the other, and they wanted to keep the mosquitos on their side of the street (assuming that this belief in limited flight ability is true). But a city is made up of lots of things all over the place. Was the idea that mosquitos couldn’t fly over 60 feet supposed to mean that the outer ring of streets acted as a cordon sanitaire, with mosquitos dropping dead before they crossed this cobblestone desert?

If so, then you don’t need more than one such wide street ringing the city.

I’ve never heard or read anything like this. Certainly people didn’t think flies were of limited range. I never heard or read one thing or the other about mosquitos, so I can’t definitely rule it out. But as an excuse for wide streets everywhere, I can’t even see the logic.

edited to add: One good wind-gust would blow mosquitos over your cordon sanitaire, thus getting around yopur clever scheme. Just another argument against it being true.

I visited a fort in Florida once. The guide claimed the high brick walls containing one area were to keep the skeeters out. But that was height not distance.

That might make some sense. Not that they CAN’T fly high but they might not be inclined to do so on average.

This page claims that mosquitos rarely go more than a mile from where they hatch.

1.) I have no idea where that’s from
2.) I have no idea what they believed in 1700s Columbia
But a mile is a lot wider than a street.

Edited to add: Actually, this article from 1917 corroborates the about 1 mile distance:


Other sites give values that can exceed one mile. It depends on species. Here’s another scientific report giving mosdtly about a mile, but occasionally much longer:


But did they make the connection between mosquitoes and malaria and other diseases back in the 1700s? IIRC, it was though “bad air” (hence the name, malaria) caused diseases, in which case the width of the street would have meant nothing.

Maybe a skeeter mile is 60 feet in human terms? :slight_smile:

A possible reason for wide streets. Narrow streets would tend to be damper and darker. They might rarely dry out properly like a wide open street would. The narrower street would shield more of the wind as well.

As a Deep South denizen, it certainly seems to me that there is some correlation to places being dark, damp, and protected from the wind and having more skeeters.

So, maybe wide streets were for that reason?

Also, nice wide streets would tend to equated with “good air”, and narrow ones with “bad air” I would think.

They definitely did not. But the OP isn’t suggesting they were preventing disease-bearing mosquitos from crossing the street. The implication seems to be that you would simply avoid the numerous bites from the mosquitos – a laudable goal in itself.

I give up – Why DID the mosquito cross the road?

I’ve done a lot of reading about the history of cities. Never encountered this belief or anything that might be related. Anywhere, from any city or any time.

Sounds a modern urban myth.

New Hampshire Dept. of Health and Human Servicessays mosquitoes can smell humans up to 60 ft. away. Other websites say that is about detecting CO2 from our breath. Doesn’t sound like knowledge available in the 18th century anyway. Probably some creative mixing of factoids and fictionoids.

Baseless rumor promoted by ruthless street construction gangs and perpetuated by the Amalgamated Street Sweepers Union. :smiley:

Calmeacham said “I give up – Why DID the mosquito cross the road?”

To get to another hide, of course.