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Kill All Mosquitoes?

Posted May 25, 2016 7:57 AM by HUSH

True story: last February I was scheduled to attend a destination wedding in Jamaica. Except a week before we left, the bride-to-be announced she would not be attending. She was pregnant and her doctor advised her not to travel to the Caribbean, as the Zika virus was just beginning to emerge in the region. So while the couple tied the knot in a private ceremony back home on the intended wedding day, 24 of their closest family and friends partied in paradise without them.

This is just a sliver of the effects Zika promises to bring stateside, as summer arrives this weekend and in short order, mosquitoes will arrive in full force. Zika can spread by two species of mosquitoes: Aedes aegypti, a tropical climate mosquito, and Aedes ablopictus, which has adapted to cooler regions including majority of the Eastern and Midwestern United States, as well as most of California. Zika can also be spread by sexual contact. To combat the Zika virus nationally, the U.S. Congress has dedicated at least $662 million towards fighting it. Brazil, the country most affected by the current epidemic, has been fumigating and using drones ahead of the 2016 Olympics.

Zika first manifests as a fever and rash, but is rarely serious for healthy individuals. Instead the biggest threats are to unborn babies, who typically suffer from microcephaly, which can be fatal. It's unknown how long the Zika virus could affect future pregnancies, so some governments have advised women against getting pregnant until more research is done. Zika also has a link to Guillain-Barré syndrome.

So as the warmest months of the year approach, governments at all levels in the U.S. are beginning to research the spread of Zika mosquitoes and initiate prevention programs. Reuters notices a large response gap between rural communities and well-off ones. Whereas the Florida Keys Mosquito District has a budget of $15 million, with four copters, two planes and 33 inspectors, towns with less resources may not even be able to conduct a basic fogging program.

Over the past couple of decades, the war on mosquitoes has increased after there were outbreaks of west Nile virus, dengue, Chikungunya and now Zika. Because of this, scientists have come up with novel, high tech ways to combat mosquitoes without the use of toxins. One of the most prominent recent methods is the sterile insect technique. Overwhelming populations of radiation-sterilized male mosquitoes are bred and released to mate with female mosquitoes, which produces no mosquito eggs and lessens the population of the next generation. There are some drawbacks, as such a breeding program is expensive, not guaranteed to work, and often requires preceding use of pesticides.

In another technique male Aedes aegypti mosquitos are bred, but are genetically modified to require tetracycline to develop beyond the larvae stage. Tetracycline is supplied to these mosquitoes in the breeding facility, but offspring created by mating with a female mosquito in the wild won't have access to tetracycline and will never develop into a mosquito. Other genetically modified mosquitoes produce 95% male offspring (males don't suck blood).

And then there is the mosquito laser, also known as the Photonic Fence. First patented in 2010, it uses infrared LED lamps and a CCD sensor to determine if an insect is present. Once confirmed, a non-lethal laser focuses on the target insect to determine if it's both a mosquito and a female mosquito. With a second confirmation, a blue laser is given permission to shoot -- one shot and the zapped mosquito is killed.

When allied with conventional mosquito management options, such as pesticides, habitat removal, and mosquito predators, it's possible to eliminate mosquitoes from the Earth entirely. And according to this 2010 article in Nature, ecological consequences would be quite minimal.

Considering mosquitoes are the deadliest creatures on the planet (up to one million deaths per year from mosquito-carried illnesses), it makes some sense. And if there aren't significant ecosystem ramifications, what's stopping us?

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#1

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/25/2016 8:51 AM

Considering mosquitos are the deadliest creatures on the planet (up to one million deaths per year from mosquito-carried illnesses)

Nope. They may be bloodthirsty little buggers, but at best they're number 2. A quick Google check shows those nasty Homo Sapiens creatures manage almost 500,000 murders annually plus over a million traffic deaths.

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/27/2016 12:12 AM

No they are still number one, accidental traffic deaths don't count.

<insert rolling eyes emoticon here>

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#2

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/25/2016 9:43 AM

I have one of those high voltage swatters. Where can I buy a mosquito laser?

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#9
In reply to #2

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/26/2016 10:33 AM

This is CR4! A DIY will have to suffice (and who published it?).

http://spectrum.ieee.org/consumer-electronics/gadgets/backyard-star-wars

(link no longer available)

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#3

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/25/2016 10:59 AM

Eliminate mosquitoes?? haha that's hilarious....We down here in Florida have been throwing everything we got at mosquitoes for nearly 60 years, and that's when we had poisons that worked, like DDT....We drained the Everglades, everybody went around all the time emptying any standing water, pouring oil on the surface of ponds, we produced gay mosquitoes, released fake pheromones , electronic zappers were everywhere, bats and other mosquito eaters habitat construction and breeding programs were rampant....At best you can control the population, but that's as good as it gets...

I was one of those little kids running behind the sprayer trucks in the cloud of DDT mist....the guy would yell at us, GET OUT OF THERE!!!! Everyone would be laughing....If there was any danger he couldn't be spraying it all over the neighborhood like that....was our reasoning....

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#4

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/25/2016 11:05 AM

The problem with trying to eradicate mosquitoes is they will mutate and evolve faster than we can come up with ways to kill them. I can imagine that when robots finally take over the planet, mosquitoes will evolve the ability to feed on hydraulic fluid.

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#5
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Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/25/2016 11:54 AM

Haha have prototype ready to go...A fail safe method of robot control...

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#6

Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

05/25/2016 11:59 PM

As everything in nature has a purpose, insects assist with things in the natural world.

BUT, I can't EVER think I have heard of some benefit of mosquitoes? What might I be missing here?? Looks more research before I go to bed!!!!

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#8
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

05/26/2016 6:54 AM

The only benefits that I know of, is that they are a food source for other species and, down South, they help to somewhat limit the migration of invasive bipedal species from the Northeast.

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#10
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

05/26/2016 1:07 PM

SID Sidow I was thinking the same last weekend, but about ticks & whether they perform any useful function in nature. Could not think of any possible benefit of ticks.

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#11
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

05/26/2016 1:50 PM

Like I said bats and dragon flies eat them. While we are questioning reason for the existence of insects, my question is why do love bugs exist? Their guts are so acidic, I'm not even sure if spiders will eat them.

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#12
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

05/26/2016 3:56 PM

If you have ever seen the swarm of love bugs arrive, you have seen the swarm of dragonflies that follow...

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#16
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/02/2016 6:25 PM

I looked SEVERAL mosquito-based websites......One site said the males do feed on nectar, so they could be pollinators.

But this is about the best one, I guess WE are being inappropriate! :-) What good do mosquitoes do? Mosquitoes fill a variety of niches which nature provides. As such, placing a value on their existence is generally inappropriate. Although the fossil record is incomplete, they have been known from the Cretaceous Period (about 100 million years ago) in North America. Their adaptability has made them extraordinarily successful, with upwards of 2,700 species worldwide. Mosquitoes serve as food sources for a variety of organisms but are not crucial to any predator species.

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#23
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/13/2016 9:36 PM

Another entomologist with lukewarm use for the buzzing bloodsuckers!!

I have received your question in regards to what is the purpose of mosquitoes. There are some scientist that will say they fit into the ecosystem and serve as a food source, but many things do. They are filter feeders of organic matter but do not remove all the material to make the water cleaner, their presence will actually bring in more mosquitoes.

I have yet to hear a real reason as to what their purpose is that I find to be acceptable.

Sonja

Sonja --------, PhD
Livestock / Veterinary Extension Entomologist
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension & Research

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#24
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/14/2016 5:04 PM

Mosquitos help boost the sales of DEET products and citronella oil.......and bug zappers, smoke coils, ultrasonic devices, marigold plants, etc.

The larvae are food sources for tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, fish, and my cat.....

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#25
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/15/2016 12:23 PM

"Mosquitos help boost the sales of DEET products and citronella oil.......and bug zappers, smoke coils, ultrasonic devices, marigold plants, etc."

All items that the manufacturer could either replace with other items if demand shifts (everything but the marigolds), or that could be re-purposed as purely decorative (the marigolds).

"The larvae are food sources for tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, fish, and my cat....."

Good point, however, they are not the exclusive food source for any of those, and the ecosystem could easily adjust to taking 'mosquito' off the menu.

Personally, I would LOVE a camping trip where everyone did not REEK of sunscreen and bug spray. If one is staying in the forest, where the majority of the campsite is in 'dappled sunlight,' one does not stay within the 'mini-spotlights' of direct sun long enough to tan, much less burn. If there were no mosquitoes, then there'd be less need for all the bug spray (you'd still need something to use on the camp socks to keep the ticks from climbing up, but that's not as noticeable as the face-level fumes from the hand and head spraying) and the campsite would smell like Nature. (and possibly BO, if it's a long trip, or a work weekend, but that's what the shower hut is for, people.)

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#7

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/26/2016 4:43 AM

Is the Mosquito Laser a spin-off from the Reagan Star Wars Programme?

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#14

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

05/31/2016 3:32 AM

As everything in nature has a purpose, insects assist with things in the natural world? The mosquito carries the Zika virus, and has possibly transmitted other viruses between species for millions of years? So! When I look at the effect of the Zika virus, I ask myself, if every thing in nature has a purpose, has the mosquito played any part in evolution?

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#15

Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

06/02/2016 10:21 AM

This is what I don't get: We have all kinds of bug traps.....for roaches, beetles, etc. Scientists have found all kinds of ways to attract different kinds of bugs into traps. So what is so HARD about attracting mosquitos into traps?? Why are THESE bugs so "hard" to attract and kill in large numbers? (How do male and female mosquitos find each other to mate?)

I tend to think it is like pharmaceutical companies: they make so much more money developing and selling things to treat SYMPTOMS than they do CURING THE DISEASE!

This just can't be that hard!

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#17
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Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

06/06/2016 3:06 PM

The problem is that the 'bait' for the mosquito traps cannot OVERPOWER the sent of the 'sweat oils' the mosquitoes use to detect prey. That's why DEET is still the most effective mosquito 'repellant,' DEET burns out the mosquito's sense of smell, rendering her 'nose blind' to the world. If it cannot smell, then all mammals are like dead cadavers in her eyes; unsuitable to get blood from.

Even if we made a trap that exuded the most 'enticing' sweat-oil smell, it would not protect people in the area; it may even encourage bites on nearby people, as the blood-suckers home in on the 'bait' smell that may linger on the person's skin and clothes.

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#18
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Re: Kill All Mosquitos?

06/07/2016 9:26 AM

Well, that only sort of makes sense. Actually, sounds just like the reasoning scientists would use NOT to find a way to drastically reduce the mosquito population.

By your reasoning, Japanese beetle traps would never work. The smell of food (my garden plants) would overpower their will to crawl into those plastic bag traps baited with pheromones and die. But, alas, those bag traps work amazingly well. The beetles prefer to home in on the smell of fellow bugs than to eat the leaves of my roses (actually my wife's roses). By the pound, no less!

Even if HALF the mosquitos in my yard preferred the bait of pheromones, and were trapped, that would be a MAJOR success!

I truly believe that not enough R & D money has been spent to effectively entice mosquitos. Much more money is to be made by Pharma companies in treating the diseases that the mosquitos spread. The Israelis are working on a plant extract from a desert plant species that holds great promise in warding off mosquitos....and they are working on baits to attract and kill them. And they live in a largely arid climate.

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#19
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/08/2016 10:04 AM

Apples and Oranges here, sorry.

Japanese beetle traps use pheromones to attract the beetles away from food. This works because the beetles are looking for two things; food and sex. Between the two, they'll pass up a quick meal in order to breed; the 'foodie' who prefers eating to sex will end up 'missing the genetic boat' to the next generation.

The mosquitoes that are biting and transmitting the diseases are the females that have already mated, and are collecting blood to nourish their eggs with. They no longer care about sex, they've 'got the ring on their finger, and the signed divorce papers in hand(1),' so males are just a bother to them now, all they want is blood, blood, fresh blood. Pheromones may REPEL them, but they are just as likely to ignore the 'love funk' when they can smell a tasty food supply to suck from. One of the better non-chemical ways to repel mosquitoes is a device that simulates the sounds of a thousand male mosquitoes flying around and giving their 'mating call.' The last thing a fertilized female wants is to fly near the equivalent of a drunken frat party of the local Ei Phelta Thi house.

Notes:

  1. I assume we've all heard the 'mosquitoes are like ex-wives' jokes by now.
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#20
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/08/2016 5:15 PM

No DEET is like wearing Eau de Mustard Gas, it literally binds with their scent receptors and burns them out. It's kind of the equivalent of a human using a nasal spray of pure, concentrated chlorine bleach.

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#21
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/08/2016 5:48 PM

Makes sense, again.

Was sitting outside with my wife last evening. She gets eaten up by mosquitos, they don't really bother me too much. She sprays on the DEET. The bugs hover around her, then get about an inch away....and just seem to lose their way. Like the airport was suddenly fogged in prior to landing. Then the bugs fly around aimlessly.

I will relay your explanation. She'll appreciate that much better than my analogy of 4 blondes at a 4 way intersection......(she's blonde).

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#22
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Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

06/09/2016 9:24 AM

"The bugs hover around her, then get about an inch away....and just seem to lose their way. Like the airport was suddenly fogged in prior to landing. Then the bugs fly around aimlessly."

I've never taken the time to observe the mosquitoes that closely. An inch away, you say? That might explain my limited success when camping. I prefer to not have the DEET directly on my skin, since my chosen brand is Jungle Juice, "100% DEET" (98.4% by volume, but still the strongest stuff you can get). I but 3-4 drops on si points around the brim of my camp hat, and that keeps the bugs away from my face (aside from the 'no-see-um-gnats,' but those don't bite, and they're only annoying when you walk into face-level clout of them), and I was putting 3-4 drops on the wrist cuffs of my camp shirts, inside wrist and outside wrist, but the bloodsuckers still go for my hands when I'm sitting still. The general head movements help to disperse a DEET clout to protect my face, but when my arms are still, those arm patches don't protect far enough down the hand.

I'll need to rethink my approach for hand protection. I'm still against putting DEET directly on my skin (especially my hands, I don't want to ingest the stuff at lunchtime), but I'll have to find some way to extend the protect further down along the exposed flesh.

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#26

Re: Kill All Mosquitoes?

08/06/2018 8:08 AM

There is a lot of natural remedies to scare mosquitoes off. One can use basil, peppermint, lemon balm, wormwood, and tansy. Cranesbill in a pot will also frighten mosquitoes away. Just shake the pot to make the smell more sensible. Here are some other tips on how to get rid of those bloodsuckers. Hope it will come in handy.

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