Controlling Pests with Pests

If you live in an area that plagued by mosquitoes, you know just how annoying they can be. They make it nearly impossible to enjoy the outdoors for longer than five minutes at a time. You light candles, hose yourself down with bug repellent, and nothing you do seems to work. Mosquitos are the legends in the world of pests. It’s no wonder that scientists now seek to use mosquitos in attempts to quell other pesky species. Having already found approval in other parts of the world, the United States Environmental Protection Agency recently okayed the use mosquitos in commercial pest control. What does this new push for pest control mean for the environment at large?


How It Works

Combating mosquitoes with other mosquitoes might seem like a silly idea, right? However, these commercialized pest controllers are entirely male; it is only the females that suck blood.

Scientist are quick to alleviate fears about genetic modification. The male Asian tiger mosquitoes are not genetically modified in any way. Rather, they carry a strain of Wolbachia that proves deadly to any offspring they produce. When a male mates with a female that does not have the strain of bacteria, all those offspring die. Experts at MosquitoMake in Kentucky (the company granted rights to sell the so-called ZAP Males) hope to see a sharp decline in bloodsucking pests across the country.

MosquitoMake tested a similar method of pest control, albeit with a different mosquito species. The company hopes to make progress in testing these new bugs in southern Florida. Unfortunately extreme weather events throughout the Gulf, specifically hurricane Irma, cut these efforts short.

International Success

Though the EPA’s decision came only weeks ago, the international community has used this method of pest control to great effect for years. Countries such as Brazil have found great success in using Wolbachia-carrying males to decrease rampant mosquito populations. However, even though the effect is the same, not every commercial company uses the same bacterial strain or strategy when trying to kill the pests.

What are your thoughts about decreasing the mosquito populations in this way? Do you think that introducing new species infected with bacterial strains is a good idea? Does it have the potential to change the ecological makeup of local habitats? Could these males give rise to a Wolbachia-resistant species of mosquito? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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