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Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

Posted August 05, 2010 12:01 AM by SavvyExacta

Summer evenings are nice, but they often include the application of insect repellent or lighting of tiki torches to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away. What if you didn't have to worry about mosquitoes? Scientists are working on that right now.

Which One Bites?

As with many species of insects, only female mosquitoes bite their victims. Scientists are currently trying to determine if wingless female mosquitoes would result in fewer bites.

According to many online resources, "Researchers at the University of Oxford are developing ways to genetically alter male mosquitoes so that after mating with females, the female offspring would be born wingless."

A Wingless Society

Since diseases spread by insects are prevalent in the tropical regions of the world, researchers plan to deposit tens of thousands of genetically-altered eggs in these areas first. If everything goes according to plan, the males hatched from these eggs will mate with females and infect the gene pool until eventually only wingless females are born. This takeover could occur in a local population in as little as six months.

If female mosquitoes were unable to fly, it is hypothesized that:

  • Mosquitoes would be less likely to spread disease
  • Female mosquitoes would die more quickly
  • Male mosquitoes would still be able to fly, but not bite

Environmental Considerations

One positive outcome of the switch is that fewer pesticides would need to be used to control mosquito populations. Whether that is worth changing the genetic makeup of a species is yet to be seen.

Wingless mosquitoes would obviously be confined to the ground. How would this change the ecology of where the mosquitoes are located?

Other Mosquito Mentions:

Are Viruses Lurking at Foreclosed Homes?

Buzz Off - Pest Prevention (Part 2)

Think it's a Bat? It Might be a Bird!

Resources:

Wingless Females Mean No More Mosquito Bites, Wend Mag

No Flight, No Bite - Genetic Researchers Say Wingless Female Mosquitoes could Curb Fatal Fever, Taragana

https://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/02/22/tech/main6232426.shtml

https://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2010/02/flightless_female_mosquitoes_m_1.html

Should We Get Rid of Mosquitoes with Science?, Ecosmart

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#1

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/05/2010 2:32 PM

This might be one of those be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenarios, albeit tempting.

Purple martins and other mosquito-eaters would find this disastrous. The buzzless creepy-crawlies could sneak up on us more easily, but they would be easier to swat. I imagine the males would find the females no matter where they were, so mosquito breeding wouldn't stop.

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/05/2010 3:20 PM

All good points. I would miss the barn and tree swallows at families' farms! My mother has over 100 after the babies are born and my grandparents have about 12 nesting pairs.

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#3

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/05/2010 11:52 PM

Not sure what makes the buzz sound! Maybe wingless it still buzzes. But I think we either create a new species that a) does nto survive or b) will be coming back in hordes and suck the life out of us - bed bug like.

Think why they suck Blood - to develope there eggs. How do they get from the pond to the Blood? Fly. How do they avoind predators? Fly away? How do they get in your house? Fly!

Poor birds have to adapt to the Mozzies being on the ground. Falling themselves victim to ground feeding predators.

Are we ready for a big expiriment with nature?

Oh forget it! we never get rid of all of them! I bet the males will start carrying the females around to the best feeding grounds like men do with their females to make sure mating is possible!

Have fun!

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#4

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/05/2010 11:59 PM

As much as I dislike mosquitoes, I understand they have a place in the food chain. The bats and swallows around here would attest to that. And my plants love bat guano. Work on fleas and ticks, I don't think anything really needs these monsters.

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#5

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/06/2010 1:23 AM

So where are the animal (in this case insect) activists? Gee...then any and every male mozzie can come along and mate a helpless, defenceless female mozzie. Imagine if we do that to our dogs or even female humans...create legless female dogs, humans so that the males can get an easy ride.

Last time they brought in the cane toads to Queensland and look at the trouble we are having now (ecologically)...and nothing was genetically modified. Fair suck of the sav guys...go and find a cure for cancer or something useful.

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#6

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/06/2010 8:17 AM

..and who knows what Mother Nature might decide to do with this? Maye she'll decide that the males should evolve into biters too! And don't forget the Dragon flies that feed on them as well!

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#7

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/06/2010 12:39 PM

I guess that I don't see how this could work. Males are introduced that will result in flightless females. These females are no longer biting because they can't fly. If they aren't biting, what are they doing for food? Without blood/food they will no longer be able to reproduce. Is the ultimate goal mosquito extinction? As some have already posted, what about the species that depend on mosquitoes as a food source?

Another possibility is that science simply won't be able to override nature. These pests are impressive - they won't just die. How many generations will it take before the mosquitoes eliminate this non-beneficial trait from the gene pool? - or they adapt to this mutation with a new mutation of their own?

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#8

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/06/2010 1:12 PM

No word from the bug repellent lobbyists?

What if the flightless ground skeeter thrives and grows bigger with no need to fly?

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#9

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/07/2010 8:53 AM

If the females can't fly, it would be easier for males to find them. If the males can find them easier...

Pesky as they are, mosquitoes must have some role in the ecosystem. As Savvy points out, they're part of a food chain. Knock on effects from eradicating them might be far more than we can imagine.

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#10

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/07/2010 3:44 PM

I think that this is one of toes "don't f**k with mother nature issues. We have to live with all the other species on this earth, like them or not. Trying to change things could have consequences that we can't imagine.

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#11

Re: Will a Mosquito Still Buzz Without Wings?

08/09/2010 1:47 PM

I wouldn't lose sleep over this. The mosquitoes aren't gonna be rendered wingless or be eradicated no matter how hard we try.

My company has had contracts for years to drop sterile (irradiated) male insects of various kinds and we've barely made a dent in any particular species. We've barely been able to keep the Med flies down to low levels in California.

The way I see it is that this new effort is just another way to siphon off taxpayer dollars. But, then, it pays a chunk of my salary so who am I to complain.

Hooker

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