Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Better Way to Fight Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes. No other insect is as deservedly loathed. Worldwide, mosquitoes are responsible for more suffering, disease, and death than any other insect.

Here in Monroe County, the Mosquito Control Board has an annual budget of over $20 million dollars. Much of that money is spent on spraying chemicals from planes, helicopters, and trucks.

Mosquito Control states that:

"The insecticides used by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District are among the insecticides least hazardous to humans"
But I can't help but wish for another solution. One not involving the spraying of so much pesticide.

A paper published two weeks ago by Rothamsted Research may have identified a better solution - one that makes the mosquitoes do the hard work.

In the experiment adult mosquitoes unwittingly delivered insecticide to their breeding pools - killing nearly all the larvae.

Here is how its done:

Mosquitoes, after they have bitten you, look for a damp place to rest waiting for their eggs to develop.

Researchers poured pyriproxyfen in cups stuffed with dark-colored fabric, creating the damp place mosquitoes prefer. Pyriproxyfen is a pesticide sold under the name Nylar and is not harmful to adult mosquitoes. These cups where placed throughout a particularly buggy Peruvian cemetery. Blood engourged-mosquitoes landed on the fabric and contaminated their legs with pyriproxyfen. When those mosquitoes went to lay their eggs they transfered the pesticide to their breeding pools. As a result, 98% of the mosquito larvae died.

Here is an illustration of the process:

According to the research paper:

"The use of the adult mosquito as the transfer vehicle ensures that the larvicides are very accurately targeted: the more popular the breeding site, the greater the transfer of insecticide and the more effective the control. "
As for the safety of pyriproxyfen, Rothamsted Research notes:

"Pyriproxyfen, the insecticide used, is a juvenile hormone analogue. It is already registered for public health use. It has drinking water approval from the WHO of 300 ppb which is 1000 times the dose needed to control [the mosquito species] Aedes aegypti."
Let's try this method in the the Florida Keys. Make the mosquitoes kill the mosquitoes.
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KWBound said...

It's worth a try if it's at least as effective as the toxic chemicals currently being used. I wonder what the expense for this type of application would be as compared to the current method of extermination?

Bob Kelly said...

The only part that seems to have a flaw is the one that says, "The mosquito bites you."

KWBound said...

Good point, KWShoes! The purpose of mosquito eradication or control is to keep from getting bit, right? I'm not fond of that part of the plan either.

Cayo Dave said...

Bob: The mosquitoes don't have to bite YOU for the plan to work effectively. (maybe you were joking?).
Anyhoo - I was at the Tropical Fruit Fiesta last weekend (great job Jeff Stotts!). Mosquito Control had a booth set up and I asked them if they heard of this new mosquito fighting technique. The three Mosquito Control employees at the booth had not heard of the technique.
I do hope they find out about it (I mentioned where they could learn more) and they try it out.
I'm considering creating a few pesticide stations where I live to see if there is a noticable change in the number of mosquitoes.
First, I have to find out where to get the chemical.