A high-tech way of battling a dangerous kind of mosquito in Fresno is proving effective.
It’s the world’s largest study using the ‘Sterile Insect Technique’ on mosquitoes.
Aedes aegypti is a dangerous, invasive species of mosquito spreading through california in recent years.
Two years ago, Debug Fresno along with Google-owned Verily started using cutting-edge technology to battle this bug by releasing male mosquitoes infected with a bacteria that makes them sterile.
Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District scientific services director Jodi Holman says it’s a new approach to fighting the pest.
“We know that this idea of releasing more mosquitoes into an area to suppress the population is a very new and novel approach to mosquito control but the way that it works is we release sterile male mosquitoes. Male mosquitoes can’t bite. That’s true for all male mosquitos (across) species.
The males are infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia.
Holman says, “Wolbachia is a naturally occuring bacteria. It’s not naturally found in aedes aegypti which is why this works. But it is found naturally in some of our native mosquito species. So there are mosquitoes in california that are carrying this bacteria. When a male and a female of the same species both have that bacteria, the offspring are completely viable which is why it can be maintained in our natural populations. But because Aedes is not naturally infected with this bacteria we’re able to release males with this bacteria and it makes them incompatible.”
Since this process only targets the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito, the difference is very subtle when it comes to those of us getting bit. For one thing. Our native, conventional, mosquitoes are not affected and bite as usual.
The Aedes aegypti not only has the potential to carry different deadly diseases, it is also more aggressive. Bites are described as larger, more irritating and even painful. Results show a 95% drop in these mosquitoes in treatment areas.
Holeman says, “So over time we expect to see the population grow smaller and smaller because all these eggs that females have laid who mated with one of our males will not develop and that’s exactly what we’ve seen.“