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Monday, August 8, 2016

Mosquito Problems

This Zika virus problem reminds me of an event in the past.  In 1999, I was suddenly getting bitten by mosquitoes in the daytime.  I managed to hit one of the little blood-suckers against my arm with a cupped hand.  It was completely dead and completely intact.  The air pressure killed it.

It didn't look familiar when I looked at it under a magnifying glass, so I did an internet search.  It was an Asian Tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), only known as far north as North Carolina at the time (I'm in Maryland, 2 states north of there).  I put it in a small plastic container and set it in the refrigerator.  Then I called around looking for anyone who might be interested.

The University of Maryland Entomology offices weren't interested.  The Washington Post newspaper was not interested.  I should have called the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, but I didn't think of them at the time.  After a few months, I tossed it away.  After all, there were plenty of others around.

Then 2 years later, I read an article in The Washington Post about how Asian Tiger mosquitoes had arrived in our area.  Gee, I tried to tell them that 2 years before!  I keep wondering if it would have helped if they had listened to me then.

I have a mosquito-unfriendly yard.  I have some standing water (a 5' pond and a tub used for cleaning garden tools).  But I put Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) dunks in them that kill mosquito larvae.  I even have trap pots of Bt water around the yard.  But they are still here.  They don't travel more than a 100 yards, but I suppose my neighbors are less careful than I am.

My point is that that another mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is the most common carrier of Zika virus, but  is climate-restricted to the very far southern US.  Asian Tiger mosquitoes, however, have also been found now to carry it.  Asian Tiger mosquitoes survive as far north as New England.

And the June 2016 issue of Smithsonian magazine has a cover article about how we can kill off mosquitoes using genetics.  The method seems convincing, effective, and relatively straight-forward.

Yet there are people in the article who question the morality of deliberately causing the extinction of mosquitoes.  REALLY?  We are killing off much more advanced animal species almost daily and they are worried about MOSQUITOES?

Sharks kill about 6 people per year, scorpions 3,250, snakes 100,000, and mosquitoes 725,000.  725,000!  Most mosquitoes don't transmit diseases.  KILL ALL THE DISEASE-CARRYING MOSQUITOES!!!

Sign me up to "push the button", "throw the switch", "give the order", whatever!  I'll accept the ethical blame...  With peace in my heart...

3 comments:

Just Ducky said...

Me and mum support you. She had one buzzing around her ear this AM while out walking. We are way far north, but even here they are putting out skeeter traps to check which kinds are around here.

Megan said...

I hear ya, Mark but ... haven't we learned from past experience that everything in nature is interconnected? That if we kill mosquitoes, then that will put part of the system out of balance and cause unforeseen consequences, the like of which may put the Zika virus in the shade? I'm NOT discounting the horrors of Zika virus or the enormous death toll around the world from mosquito borne diseases - just acknowledging that we humans don't understand the natural world very well.

Megan
Sydney, Australia

Mark's Mews (Ayla, Iza, and Marley) said...

Well, normally, I would agree with you. Killing wolves leads to too many deer and moose and that leads to saplings being eaten, which reduces the forests.

But I think parasites are a different problem. Would the world be diminished by there being fewer fleas? As far as I can find, nothing depends on eating fleas.

Similarly, there are many varieties of mosquitos, most of which are not threatening to humans. The few that are would be replaced by more of the non-threatening kind. Small loss if we could eliminate the threatening ones in that case.

Could some of the non-threatening kind get adapted to by the disease viruses? Yeah, maybe in a hundred years. Wipe out those too. Maybe even make more varieties of non-threatening mosquitos for a few needs of birds and drangonflies.

I think the question is one of ethics. We humans have killed off dangerous animals )and probably some plants) for a few millenia. Been attacked by any Great Auks lately? Did the ecosystem collapse when humans eliminated them?

I haven't read of any Giant Wolverine or Saber-Tooth Cats attacks in North America recently. That seems to have worked out well.

On the smaller scale. Let's not mourn the elimination of Smallpox in nature, for example. Would eliminating the Malaria parasite be worse? What if we could eliminate Ebola? Would that harm the environment?

So eliminating a few species of disease-vector mosquitos does seem worth trying.

Just a thought...