For almost two years now, we’ve kept a close eye on the Aedes aegypti or yellow fever mosquito along with the Center for Disease Control, Florida universities and the National Institutes for Health, because of their role in spreading the Zika virus (along with other Dengue based illnesses).
Concerns reached a fever pitch last summer when steps had to be taken to protect United States athletes and their families traveling to Brazil, one of the hotbeds for the Zika virus, followed shortly by instances of the virus appearing in the United States that didn’t arrive with infected travelers.
Various methods to deal with the problem have been suggested, including avoidance, eradication, sterilization and our own incredible No Bite Zones, which turn mosquitoes from carnivores to vegans.
Using Bacteria to Control Mosquitoes
But earlier this year, in a groundbreaking experiment, scientists in the Florida Keys are trying a new approach. One that fits with our mission of natural, organic solutions to pest control.
60% of insects in the world have Wolbachia bacteria present in their system, including some mosquitoes, but not in the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Scientists have known about and studied this bacteria for years, primarily looking for a way to prevent Dengue fever. Mosquitoes with Wolbachia are less able to transmit viruses to people, so the risk of outbreaks in those areas is reduced, and the bacteria itself is safe for humans, animals and the environment.
However, when the yellow fever mosquito is infected with Wolbachia, it has an unusual effect. When the males are infected with Wolbachia and then mate with wild, uninfected females, they will lay eggs, but they don’t hatch.
The Florida Keys experiment involves releasing 20,000 male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, infected with the Wolbachia bacterium onto Stock Island. Twice a week for 12 weeks, the manually infected mosquitoes will be released at various spots around the island, in an effort to eliminate the yellow fever mosquitoes in the area. The hope is that the species will be eliminated, reducing the possibilities of Zika.
The experiment is based on a similar trial tried in Clovis, California last year. However, some researchers think that the Keys experiment is only a short-term solution. Yes, there is a potential for cutting back on the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, but that doesn’t keep yellow fever mosquitoes from other places moving back into the area.
They propose a different approach – releasing male and female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia bacteria. When females infected with Wolbachia mate with wild, uninfected males, all of their offspring are born with Wolbachia. This method would maintain the mosquito population and allow them to fulfill their God-given purpose as pollinators. And the Wolbachia bacterium would significantly reduce the chance of spreading Zika, Dengue and yellow fever.
Regardless of how the experiment in the Keys turns out, we’ve had great success with our exclusive No Bite Zones technology in Port Charlotte, Sarasota and Bradenton, really all over the Gulf coast of Florida, and we’re sure it’ll work for your backyard too. Give us a call and we’ll get you started!