In February of 2018, the mayor of South Miami, Florida announced that the city plans to release six million sterile mosquitoes into South Florida in the hopes that they will help cut down on the population of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. The city has already begun releasing the mosquitoes and plans to continue releasing them in batches of 20,000 at a time between now and July 31, 2018. These measures are being taken after the state received a negative response to the heavy fumigation it ordered when the Zika virus first spread to Florida. An initial trial of the sterile mosquito solution proved to be highly effective in the Florida Keys.
How Sterile Mosquitoes Reduce the Overall Mosquito Population
The sterile mosquitoes being released in Florida are developed by a company called MosquitoMate out of a lab in Kentucky. This company renders thousands of male mosquitoes sterile by infecting them with the Wolbachia bacteria. This strain of bacteria effectively makes it impossible for male mosquitoes to impregnate females. By releasing these sterile male mosquitoes into the habitat of the Zika-carrying Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, MosquitoMate hopes to reduce the species' population as a whole. This works because, while these males can't impregnate females, they will still mate. The females, having successfully mated with males, will then lay eggs that will never hatch. After a few generations of mosquitoes, the population will be effectively reduced. According to a MosquitoMate representative, the Florida Keys trial showed an 80 percent decrease in the female Aedes aegypti mosquito population.
Are the Sterile Mosquitoes Dangerous?
According to the mayor of South Miami, the bacteria-infected mosquitoes pose no danger. All of the release mosquitoes will be male, which means that they don't drink blood. They won't bite humans or animals, and have no way of transmitting diseases. The Wolbachia bacteria also cannot be spread to humans or animals. There is also no environmental concern about greatly reducing the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito as it is an invasive species that is not native to Florida.
Effects of Zika Virus and Other Diseases Transmitted by Mosquitoes
In 2016, the Zika virus gained international attention by rapidly spreading through South America, Central America, Australia, Europe and the southern part of North America. It had previously only been reported in Africa and South Asia. Zika is known to cause serious birth defects, such as microcephaly, in children born to mothers infected with the virus. Microcephaly causes abnormally small heads and brain damage in babies. Other diseases that are commonly transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes include dengue and chikungunya diseases.
What Does This Project Mean for Florida and the Rest of the U.S.?
If the sterile mosquito project produces the desired results in Miami, it's very likely that it will be replicated on a much larger scale. Representatives at MosquitoMate are hopeful that broad-scale sterile mosquito release could be approved by the government as soon as 2019. This means that the rest of Florida could receive the treatment as well as the rest of the southern U.S. and other areas affected by the Zika virus. The current Miami mosquito project has been funded by the Florida Department of Health using funds given as a grant by the Centers for Disease Control.
In the meantime, while you're waiting to see if this project works and if it will come to your area, let MosquitoNix help keep disease-carrying mosquitoes away from your home. To see our full list of services and products, visit our mosquito control services page.
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