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More is less: Lee County using mosquitos to eliminate mosquitos living near homes

Britain Malaria Mosquitoes
Posted at 7:20 AM, Jun 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 07:20:38-04

LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Lee County Mosquito Control District is sterilizing male mosquitoes to hopefully lower the population of mosquitoes that love to breed near homes and seek out humans to bite.

At first, the idea of more mosquitoes could rub you the wrong way.

The species is called Aedes aegypti and is an invasive species seen around the world and here in Southwest Florida.

The Lee County Mosquito Control District utilizes a machine that uses x-rays to sterilize male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.

Now before you grab the bug spray, the district told Fox 4 male mosquitoes do not bite, so releasing more of them will not increase the number of bites in an area.

Referred to as the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), Rachel Morreale, Manager of Applied Science and Technology for the district says this tactic has been used by them over the past year after they started seeing traditional methods like insecticides begin to fail.

“What we are doing with sterile insect technique is using technology and technique that does not use chemicals. So we are really able to target these organisms that are actively developing resistance to the insecticides that we use. It’s so important because these are disease-carrying mosquitoes and we only have a limited number of chemicals we can use to help treat them," said Morreale.

Aedes aegypti is known to pass along dangerous viruses to humans such as Yellow Fever and Zika virus.

The district releases the sterile mosquitoes on Captiva Island because of the size and abundance of the Aedes aegypti mosquito.

Morreale told Fox 4 that right now is the time when they will start to see the impact they have had on the mosquito population, as SWFL starts to see more rain.

"We have constantly been putting this pressure on that population. Even through the winter, we have not stopped. So right now, it’s starting to rain more, we are starting to see our populations become more active and this is the point when we are about to be able to see the long-term effects of our work,” she said.

Using x-ray or gamma rays to reduce populations isn't a new idea, the Lee County Mosquito Control District says the same process was used on Sanibel Island back in 1951 to eliminate the Screwworm Fly.