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On reddit, I remember seeing something like "Research assures government that killing mosquitos would have no negative effect on world ecology"... right above another thread titled "Scientists underestimate ecological impact of species destruction"...

Do we actually understand Mosquitos role in the planet's eco system?




No, but that isn't even the million dollar question because the answer will never be "yes."

The real question is how certain do we have to be about their role before we decide the gamble is worth it?

In this thread you see wealthy westerners complaining that mosquitos are a nuisance. In many parts of the world they are holocaust-scale killers. It gets to an age old question re: the precautionary principle, and a lot of philosophers have spent a lot of time reasoning about it. No one has a generalizable answer.


Even more on point:

Which is likely to cause more ecological damgage:

1) Wipe out two (of over 3,500) species of mosquito

2) Spray poisons indiscriminately, wiping out many different species of insect, both mosquitos and non-mosquitos?


Thanks for bringing this up. Since no one's brought this up already, check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_laser


Wow, that's crazy, a laser/computer combo mounted on fence posts, which is able to determine the type and gender of insect, and only shoot the right kind of disease-carrying mosquitos. "the Photonic Fence can kill up to 50 to 100 mosquitoes a second, at a maximum range of 100 ft."

Also interesting, I thought Intellectual Ventures was only a patent troll, I didn't know they did actual research work as well.


It might be uncharitable to say but it's always been my opinion that their lab and token inventions are cover for their patent trolling activities. Actual inventions from their people are few and far between.


Unfortunately IV purchased all the patents of a company I used to work for, General Magic, after it died. Several of us wanted to open-source Magic's source code, but we'd potentially face prosecution from IV if we did. So much cool stuff there, it's really a pity.


as a side note i remember reading something about some patent trolls using money from suits to actually drive development of promising patents. i do not remember if this was optimism about their true intent or full bs...now i will have to go hunt that down.


When they actually deploy this shit, they'll no longer be a on-practicing entity...


Don't things eat mosquitos? Do any of those things matter?


No one is talking about wiping out all mosquitos.


For those modding this down, yes, that's the link-bait title of the article.

The link-bait title is wrong. No one is seriously talking about eliminating all mosquitos. There's discussion of eliminating two (two) of the over 3,500 species of mosquito, specifically those that carry horrible human diseases.

Maybe you should try reading the article, rather than just the title?


It's literally the title of the article


The title is wrong.


Isn't the original article talking about that? "Total Mosquito Destruction"


Dragonflies eat mosquitos. I happen to like dragonflies. The are one of the non-annoying insects I actually like to have in my (non) backyard.

edit: http://www.chron.com/life/gardening/article/Dragonflies-Moth...


When I was young, people were encouraged to build homes for Purple Martins, because it was believed that these birds ate a substantial quantity of mosquitos. Later it was discovered that they actually prefer to eat dragonflies. Oops!


In the UK we don't have human-biting mosquitos, yet we still have plenty of dragonflies.


We have plenty of human biting mosquitos in the UK, I'm quite allergic to some of them.


With mosquitos extinct (good riddance) other insects would take their niche.

Their impact as a food source would be negligible.

Before they were introduced by sailing ships, its not like the bug-eating animals did not have enough bugs to eat.


lol, did you even read the article?

    There’s little evidence, though, that mosquitoes form a crucial link in any food chain, or that their niche could not be filled by something else.


This little evidence comes from little research.


That people today can still make assertions like that and expect to be taken seriously shows you how little we have learned from earlier "lack of evidence".


3)Half a million humans that would have died from Malaria, but did not.


This is the right way to frame it; or perhaps try the counterfactual: by not taking action, we are choosing to allow 0.1 Holocausts/year of deaths to occur.

We wipe species off the face of the earth regularly for as little benefit as increasing the land available for soy farming in the Amazon; averting a holocaust per decade seems like a no-brainer when measured on that scale.


Prohibit cars. 1/6 of Holocaust every year will be prevented.


Because the utility of mosquitos is roughly equivalent to the utility of cars.

Duh.


Nope, mosquitoes are far more efficient.


This is much more than a million dollar question. I know local economies depending on mosquito larvae winter haul. They sell those to fishermen. Fish populations depends on mosquito larvae in many lake and river ecosystems.


Those economies don't specifically depend on Aedes aegypti.


This is true. But is MBTE specific only to that species? I am pragmatic, I don't care about the "butterfly effect", but I know enough about immune system of Arthropoda, to be sceptical about long term effectiveness of worldwide campaigns and I know enough about development and humanitarian aid projects in the third world to be perfectly sure about bloody huge mismatch between declared and real targets of those campaigns.

Remember human population fertility control effort performed by the US under cover of humanitarian aid in Central Africa less than 30 years ago?


Millions of lives are more important than a few "local economies".


Prohibit cars. Millions of lives are more important than car industry.


If the ecological niche of the mosquitoes is a lucrative, rich one, another species will eventually fill it.

As long as there are no drastic effects on the ecosystems involved, (local) extinction of one species is fine. It happens in nature rather regularly, e.g. due to epidemics.

We, the humans, can exert evolutionary pressure to fill the niche of virus-bearing mosquitoes with other species that don't have this trait. The nature will deliver. We can even help by introducing other species, well-known species that could replace the mosquitoes which are going to be exterminated in a more or less controlled way.


I was reminded by your post of Chesterton's fence: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Chesterton%27s_fen...


Chesterton's fence applies to things that are built with a purpose. Natural evolution does not meet this criteria; mosquitoes are more like Chesterton's Fallen Tree.


If the fence would be e.g. electrocuting hundreds of thousands of humans a year, maybe the depth of the due diligence could be somehow limited.


One known evolutionary purpose of mosquitos is that "mosquitoes represent a considerable biomass of food for wildlife on the lower rungs of the food chain."[1] so they are feeding the some other species that may or may not have direct impact on humans.

[1]: http://insects.about.com/od/flies/a/10-facts-about-mosquitoe...


Maybe it's just me but a swarm that goes around poking their needles into the bloodstreams of different species, seems like something that MAY have played a very important role in Earth's early ecosystems, like bee transferring pollen, but that role might be vestigial if not outright undesirable now.


Chesterton's Fence has made the HN rounds lately, but it's again relevant here [1].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9745149


Yes but fences don't usually kill more than 700k people per year. Its one thing to think carefully about making a change you don't fully understand, its quite another to see great harm done and act to stop it.

Humans (especially first world-ers) have become (somewhat rightfully so) paralyzed with fear about doing anything at all in the environment.

Our 20th century hubris lead us to think that we could fully understand and control our biosphere with unfortunate consequences, but there was a huge dose of optimistic humanism that went along with it. Smallpox was a good, good thing to eradicate.

Someday we will be able to exercise that measured control successfully. We'll probably have to to survive long term on earth no matter how many low-flush toilets we put in. I'm starting to wish to see some of that optimism again and a world without malaria might be just the kind of small step we need to get our mojo back.


>Research assures government that killing mosquitos would have no negative effect on world ecology

Neither would killing of the last few panda (stupid, useless animal), but we wouldn't actually do it. With mosquitoes, do to their large numbers, it would seem like a bit of a gamble. If we're wrong it would be hard to undo killing all the mosquitoes.


Really? Seems like it would be pretty easy to recreate a population of wild type mosquitoes. Just freeze a bunch of eggs.

But that probably won't be necessary. Mosquitoes are too successful to be that easily wiped out. Probably best we can hope for is to get rid of 80-90% of them.


Getting rid of 80-90% of them won't do, they reproduce in such large numbers that they'll rebound in a generation or two. You really do have to aim for wiping them out completely.


I'm all for wiping them out totally and forever, but I doubt it's possible. Probably we'll have to settle for 90% and maybe less in the tougher environments like the wet tropics.


> Just freeze a bunch of eggs. Sadly, I never thought of that. Great point.


How many species did we wipe before that ? is it a first ?

ps: the only time where humans destroying something made me happy was smallpox.


Partially, yes. Is huge




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