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Mosquitoes Changed Everything (newyorker.com)
143 points by sasvari 80 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 140 comments



More politicians should campaign on eradicating mosquitoes in their local communities using gene editing. In the last decade Los Angeles has been infested with Aedes mosquitoes. A much more dangerous type than the culex we’re used to.

They need much less water to grow eggs, Attack the lower body of humans quickly in short bursts so they’re harder to swat, and can transfer all the dangerous diseases mosquitoes are known for.

Very scary and very solvable before it gets out of hand.

https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-aedes-m...


Not only scary & solvable, but eradicating invasive species is also generally considered a safe & ecologically desirable thing.


Most of them would opt for the simpler solution of spraying more chemicals everywhere as if they only affect mosquitos


We have the same little bastards in NYC. My yard is quite lush and shady so I believe it gives them shade and cover to breed. I can't enjoy my yard because of them. I thought the natural shade and privacy would be nice but it's not worth it if you get eaten alive. Today I had enough and chopped down some smaller trees that were shading along with pruning back another shade tree. I also removed a large bed of a crawling plant that looked nice in place of grass but was more cover.


Do you have standing water, or are they coming in from the neighbors? It doesn’t take much water to get mosquitos. Tires, plastic containers, drip trays for planters, mis-hung gutters...


After a day cleaning I'm now sure it's the derelict house behind mine. The elderly owner passed and their kids are fighting over ownership. It also doesn't help that the pig of a neighbor who shares the driveway uses the yard and space between the garage as a landfill. Time to call 311. Perhaps trimming the trees won't help but I have to try something.


I have had luck with the kind of mosquito trap that burns propane to make warm moist co2 and then sucks then mosquitos in with a fan. I have found the light traps to be pretty much useless.


Is it indeed possible to eradicate mosquitoes? Outside my house at certain parts of the day, there's tons and it only takes a few seconds to get swarmed. :(

What is the latest-and-greatest mosquito extermination tech?


We bought some GAT traps to thin the swarms of tiger mosquitos we have in DC and it seems to be working:

https://us.biogents.com/bg-gat/

What I really want to mature is the photonic fence but that’s been slow going: https://photonicsentry.com/


The sterile-male technique is IMO the latest & greatest. You breed vast quantities of sterile males (which do not bite, only females bite) and release them in an area. They compete with viable males for mates, and the net effect is suppressing the reproduction of the population.

It exhibits some very desirable attributes. It's incredibly selective, targeting only one species. It is also self-limiting, there is no feedback loop that could run out of control and there are no chemicals that could accumulate in the environment.

For a while the cost of breeding the males was prohibitive but some recent innovation has dropped the cost tremendously.


Mosquitoes are valuable pollinators, and the majority do not carry diseases. If you have a simple solution to a big problem, then most likely, you're going to have more problems.


There's a lot of interesting work in eradicating malaria. Genetically modified mosquitos is one of them, which deserves careful watch https://www.telegraph.co.uk/global-health/science-and-diseas....

The Centre for Effective Altruism looks at ranking charities on effectiveness, and the Against Malaria Foundation always ranks very highly.


Givewell also ranks that foundation very highly


Details for people who might want to dig in.

https://www.givewell.org/charities/amf


I'm waiting for the laser defense system for my back yard.


Indeed! This was mentioned in David Brin's book "Earth". It discussed tracking mosquitoes with vision or radar or something and using lasers to zap them. The interesting bit was only zapping dangerous types of mosquitoes, based on wing-beating speed of different species. And that book was from 1990 I think.


Where is the technology for this? This is an idea I had as a kid, everything I learned about science deems this possible.



Yes, I think this guy Myhrvold (who got rich managing some smart scientists at MS) owns a patent trolling business and slapped a patent on it, so nobody else can make and sell a mosquito laser cannon. The devil incarnate, apparently.


He gave a talk on it at an HN meetup in Seattle.

The true problem is that back when it was first invented, it wasn't practical. They are still improving it and trying to get it field tested.

Still though, lasers take a fair bit of power, and there is a distinct lack of power in places where mosquitoes are the thickest.

Also people get a bit touchy about "AI controlled lasers" in populated areas, even if the laser is low power.

The fact that they are still trying to improve it despite the lack of a huge economic incentive is a good thing IMHO.


the key word being make and sell. the design is publicly available, you just need to have the patience to build one yourself and you can have anything you like even if it is patented


IIRC technically patent law prohibits you from making it even if you don't plan on selling.


Yes, you recall correctly.

https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/general-inform...

The key word is not and, but or. “the right to exclude others from making, using, offering for sale, or selling”


OK. But the prohibition is enforced by the patent holder suing for damages. It seems 1) unlikely that the patent holder will discover the infringement in the case of a DIYer, 2) that they will go to the trouble of suing for damages and 3) that the damages will amount to anything significant.


There is a lot of research just lying around, waiting to be used. Check out PEANO-HASEL.


I don't know if it's too off-topic but I'd be happy to hijack these comments for a quick discussion of the best way to get rid of mosquitos from around your home. I live in the mountains in California and the little buggers are everywhere.

I bought a UV bug zapper without realising that mosquitos are apparently not attracted to UV. I later learned that they are attracted to CO2, but discussion of CO2 traps on the web imply that they also work very poorly.

Is there anything that can be usefully done?


I am using a biogents active trap with the CO2 attachment, and two passive traps.

This was the result of hours/days of research.

I have seriously considered building a lanai or screen porch because in recent years the mosquitoes render my yard unusable for the duration of the season I want to use it.

This year the torture is very minimal. The trap seems to be incredibly effective, when the co2 tank runs out, I starting getting lots of bites.

It’s not cheap but I think it is far and away the most evidence based option for a homeowner.


The other day I was ruminating on the feasibility of creating a honeypot for mosquitos. Basically a breeding basin that purges itself on an interval shorter than the egg laying to larval stage.

Essentially mechanical pest control.


I've created a project with overview of existing solutions and to brainstorm together: https://github.com/mariusa/mosquito-eradication

Would you please share the details of your idea?


Great initiative! Starred and watching.


Interesting idea. The passive traps I have either need to be manually emptied and/or use donuts or bits.

Some challenges:

The purging is a difficult part to get right. You need to be absolutely sure no larvae or eggs survive it.

Also if you purge the water regularly it will be less brackish, so less attractive to many species for egg laying. I include decomposing plant matter in my traps in the hopes it makes it more attractive.

I would say definitely check out the biogents passive trap design, it has some clever ideas in a very very simple design.


That would be super simple to create, no? Essentially a big bowl with a paddle that would make waves once a day?


I was recently thinking about making something like this, too! It'd be a fun thing to develop in the open.


Let's do it! I've created a project with overview of existing solutions and to brainstorm together: https://github.com/mariusa/mosquito-eradication


I'd love to know if either of you follow through with this. Sounds interesting.


I've heard a lot of good things about mosquito dunks as a "potentially" safe-ish alternative. They're used as honey pots by putting them in sitting water.

My personal preference this year was to walk around like an idiot swatting at mosquitoes with an electric flyswatter in shady grass areas. Though this is painstaking & I keep thinking I need a bigger flyswatter.


Spraying poisonous chemicals can be very effective, but may harm life forms other than mosquitoes.

I wear a bug shirt as an effective alternative to bug spray.

https://www.bugshirt.com/

Some DIY trap/attractant research and ideas:

  https://permies.com/t/115296/critters/trapped-mosquitos
  https://www.bg-sentinel.com/ (see design of device)

  -yeast (do not stir), brown sugar, filtered water
  -common trap design uses 2L bottle cut near top with top inverted and placed into lower section. mosquitoes fly into funnel-like area and lay eggs. important: opaque cover to block light, black supposedly attracts mosquitoes.
  -things to experiment with:
    -5 gal bucket design: inverted funnel, insect screen lid, fan to disperse attractant
    -other attractants: used clothing / shoes (soles) / octinol lures
    -soap to reduce surface tension to drown mosquitoes
    -some say bread works instead of yeast
    -other types of sugar
    -baking soda / citric acid or vinegar CO2 source (quick reaction, need to slow down)
    -mason jar (hydroponic) net pot - line with screen and make hole in bottom
    -fungus / mushroom CO2 sources
    -bt dunks in areas with standing water
    -3d print container/components
    -build bat house (benefit: guano for compost)


Try and make sure you don't have any pools of stagnant water around. (long lasting puddles, buckets, other random concavities water can collect in.)


It can be very difficult to find them all. Very small amounts of water can host larvae as long as it is persistent. Potted plants that are watered often and outside drip lines for AC's are really common spots for unintended mosquito farms.


Unless you live on a very large property, the range of the mosquitoes usually far exceed the range of your control over standing water.


That depends on the species. Some species tend to stay within a few hundred feet of their breeding grounds, while others can travel for miles (but even then many will still tend to stay very close by).


The Aedes mosquitoes that are invading Los Angeles will apparently breed in an upturned bottle cap or "in the depression of a wrinkled old bag of chips that gets hit by a sprinkler.". Good luck finding all pools of water that big on any significant property. (LA Times semi-paywalled article: https://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-aedes-m... )


Other than environmental controls (eliminate standing water), this might be the stuff:

https://www.domyown.com/deltagard-insecticide-p-16550.html


That stuff works unreasonably well. Mosquitos so much as landing on surfaces treated with it weeks prior die within minutes, yet its so safe for mammals, farmers spray it directly onto cattle.

The terrible downside is that it is ridiculously toxic to marine life. Use with care and forethought.


That, and toxic to other pollinating insects.


Is this the pyrethrine family? There are various wall-plug mosquito repellants that contain pyrethrines, I didn't want to use tablets/liquids etc but if they're safe they would be a lifesaver.

My flat doesn't have mesh screens and I would much rather open a window than turn the AC on at night, but I then get lots of mosquitos.


Yes they are prethrine based. I've never found the plug-in types to be too effective. But I probably wouldn't detect a 30 or 50% reduction.

Get mesh screens! I never understood why they're non-existen in Europe (and probably other places). Or a mosquito net over the bed?


So deet?


Nope, pyrethrin insecticide. Like lice treatment.


Aha. Thanks.


Spend more time with them. I grew up in the tropical Fijian bush and never noticed mosquitoes. I left for a few years and when I went back, every mosquito bite left an itchy red bump that sometimes got infected (turned into a boil).

After a couple of weeks of this, I redeveloped my resistance to them and no longer even notice them anymore.

Of course this doesn't apply if there's an ongoing mosquito-borne epidemic in your area, but that doesn't happen often. When they're not carrying a disease (which is most of the time), they're pretty harmless.


This varies a lot from person to person. My mom doesn’t have any kind of reaction to mosquito bites. My dad gets angry red welts. They grew up in the same town and have been living together for 50 years. Spending more time in a place with mosquitoes is not going to help him.


I read once that CO2 traps work much better if cow sweat is added to them.


Certain species of plants are naturally mosquito repelling. I don't provide recommendations because they depend on your zone but it should be easy enough to find. They are not as effective as chemicals, but you just need to make your outdoor living spaces slightly less desirable for them for it to work.

I'm not sure about the co2 traps - you may just be attracting mosquitos from nearby, where only some of them go into the trap and the others find different targets.

The co2 system might work well if you can have it on your property but 50'+ away from where humans hang out.


>>They are not as effective as chemicals, but you just need to make your outdoor living spaces slightly less desirable for them for it to work.

So basically make your place a bit less desirable than your neighbor's backyard.

Reminds me of this joke:

You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.


I am thinking of planting more trees and bushes around the yard especially closer to the windows and doors to attract spiders and other predators to set up shop (and also because plants aromatic and pretty and good for the environment).

Has anyone else done this and noticed any difference in mozzie numbers? I live in Brisbane Australia.


Mosquitoes live in trees too unfortunately.

We had a large number of mosquitoes hanging around our back screen door (which opens into a yard, under a covered concrete area).

We had a gardener trim the trees extensively along our back fence for unrelated reasons. We took a couple of metres from the top and branches from the side. The mosquito problem went away overnight. The level of shade/cooling near the door didn't change appreciably, so I assume they were just living in the lush trees and once that went away so did they.

One thing I was looking into before that was bat boxes, since they eat mosquitoes.

https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/building-a-bat-b...


I've created a project with overview of existing solutions and to brainstorm together: https://github.com/mariusa/mosquito-eradication


Beyond netting, the problem requires a large scale solution.


> The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator

The mosquito is a parasite, not a predator.

When the author of the book mislabels the ecological niche occupied by the mosquito in the title of his book it gives little confidence in his rigour or level of insight.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasitism#Micropredator

> A micropredator attacks more than one host, reducing each host's fitness at least a small amount, and is only in contact with any one host intermittently. This makes them suitable as vectors as they can pass smaller parasites from one host to another. Most micropredators are hematophagic, feeding on blood. They include annelids such as leeches, crustaceans such as branchiurans and gnathiid isopods, various dipterans such as mosquitoes and tsetse flies, other arthropods such as fleas and ticks, vertebrates such as lampreys, and mammals such as vampire bats.

https://biology.stackexchange.com/questions/58169/why-is-a-m...

> A mosquito is a biological parasite, it is not a medical parasite.

Plus, it's a figure of speech talking about the fact that they kill a lot of us humans.


I question the redefinition of predator, an organism that hunts and consumes its prey, in this term micropredator. I wonder how accepted and widespread its use is.

And the author doesn't use this much more restricted term. He didn't title his book A Human History of Our Deadliest Micropredator. Because he's going for sensationalism, as is more fully demonstrated in quotes from the book given later in the article:

> In total, Winegard estimates that mosquitoes have killed more people than any other single cause—fifty-two billion of us, nearly half of all humans who have ever lived. He calls them “our apex predator,” “the destroyer of worlds,” and “the ultimate agent of historical change.”

To your own assertion that mosquitoes kill a lot of humans - they only do so indirectly as a vector for disease. This is a very important distinction - if we are going to eradicate anything it would be better to eradicate the microbial killer parasites they carry, such as Plasmodium falciparum, not the carriers themselves (which are an important food source for many actual predators).


Because the advantages are obvious, what are the disadvantages of killing all mosquitoes?


It's not even that.

There are only a few mosquito species that can carry the malaria parasite. If we exterminate them, they will/can be replaced by other, hard to distinguish mosquito species.

We now have the technology to do that, but aren't (yet) doing it, even though it kills over a million people a year.

https://www.wired.co.uk/article/mosquitos-crispr


> even though it kills over a million people a year.

It doesn't actually. It kills around 400,000 a year, mostly because of poor medical infrastructure. That's roughly the same amount of death than the flue (a little more in average), and it kills really little people who have access to modern medicine.

For a strange reason I don't get, Malaria is way more “popular” in the western world than other diseases like tuberculosis which cause much more deaths each year (4 times more deaths, less than a tenth of the media coverage).


I haven't counted myself, but UNICEF says it's over a million: https://www.unicef.org/health/files/health_africamalaria.pdf

Also "An estimated 300-600 million people suffer from malaria each year."

I'd speculate that malaria seems more fixable than TB.


Idk where the discrepancy comes from, but I trust WHO[1] more than UNICEF on this kind of topics.

About our ability to fix the issue: I agree with you, and that's why I really don't like the idea of something as extreme as eradication of a whole specie with gene drive for something that's mainly an infrastructure/underdevelopment issue in Africa.

[1]: https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malaria


Only about 40 of the 3500 mosquito species are able to spread malaria, so eradicating those would very likely only result in the other 3460 taking over their habitats.

Unless you're concerned with the survival of the parasite itself?

I'm confused by infrastructure/underdevelopment argument. Malaria wasn't eradicated in the rich world through health care. We mass slaughtered our mosquitos until the problem was gone.


I'm not too much concerned about those 40 species. What I'm concerned about is the Sorcerer's Apprentice behavior.

Gene drive is an incredibly powerful tool and we don't know what could go wrong if we tried to use it to wipe-out a specific species.

Actually, the «Species» concept is a scientific model, but we know it's simplistic: inside a given species, not all the individuals have the same genes[1] (I'm not talking about alleles here) and we know that some distinct species can mate together and have fertile offspring [2], so we can't know for sure that the gene drive won't affect other species as well. It could even wipe out the entire family of mosquitoes.

Using this kind of untested nuclear tool to fight a not-so-big issue that have been successfully fought everywhere but in Africa is not a responsible move, that's my point.

Also:

> Malaria wasn't eradicated in the rich world through health care. We mass slaughtered our mosquitos until the problem was gone.

Anopheles Atroparvus (Western Europe), Anopheles Messae (North-eastern Europe), Anopheles Quadrimaculatus (Eastern-US), and Anopheles Freeborni (West coast) are still here[3], but you don't have malaria there anymore. We killed a lot of mosquitoes to get rid of malaria, but we didn't have to kill them all to eradicate the epidemics.

The thing is: malaria doesn't come from the mosquitoes only. To get a malaria epidemics, you need a pool of sick people the mosquitoes bite and get infected. Once you fixed the epidemics, the mosquitoes aren't an issue anymore.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-genome

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beefalo

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anopheles#/media/File:Anophele...


The fact that you think 1000+ people dying a day is "a not-so-big issue" is our irreconcilable difference.

To me that's a huge humanitarian disaster, and you do whatever it takes to save those lives.

> Gene drive is an incredibly powerful tool and we don't know what could go wrong if we tried to use it to wipe-out a specific species.

1. We've wiped out thousands of species before. We know pretty well what happens.

2. You start by wiping it out in a few areas, and learn what happens before you move on to do it everywhere.


> 1. We've wiped out thousands of species before. We know pretty well what happens.

I don't think you understand what gene drive[1] is. It's exactly like building a virus to destroy the target (and hopefully only the target) species, except it's more like a computer virus: it's some pathology that spreads through the genotype of the target population until the population in question goes extinct. If it unfortunately jumps from one species to another related species, it can have a disastrous effect on a scale that's hard to imagine.

> To me that's a huge humanitarian disaster, and you do whatever it takes to save those lives.

Philip Morris alone kills more people than this, shouldn't we do whatever it takes to save those people too? Is burning Mc Donalds moral because obesity kills millions of people? How about a nation-scale spoliation of all diesel car owners, because these also kills more than Malaria?

“Whatever it takes” doesn't make any sense, you have to weight the cost versus benefits of the actions, and in the case of gene drive, the cost is totally unknown and could be a total disaster.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_drive


Because we are tantalizingly close to eradicating it. The low death rate is a sign of success not a signal to stop.


I'm not talking about stopping or anything. What I'am saying is :

1- The malaria issue is depicted as bigger than it is nowadays, as if the western world has some kind of weird fetish about it.

2- Maybe using world-changing genetic engineering is not really worth it, as we already made huge progress toward the solution without using such a extreme solution.


Malaria impacts swathes of prime tropical beach land useful for building vacation resorts for rich people. On the other hand, most people associate tuberculosis with Russian jails.


Is there something more terrifying about maleria over tb?


This changes everything. 400k people a year is a penny change, I'm sure we can safely ignore them.


It's not about the number in itself, it's about the causes:

Gene drive enthusiasts say: “this is a dramatic issue which need extreme bio-engineering to solve it because we have no other solutions”.

Whereas in reality, it's a concerning health issue (but much less concerning at a global scale than cigarettes or mere junk food) that's almost fixed worldwide with conventional means (health infrastructures, local mosquitoes elimination, bug nets, and there's even a pilot program for a vaccine with promising results) and would have been solved if Africa wasn't in such a poor shape in term of development.

For the record, the whole western Europe is infested with Anopheles Atroparvus[1] which is a vector for malaria (and have been a source of many malaria epidemics in Europe in the past) yet there is no more malaria there nowadays, and in some places with high levels of water pollution it has even been considered an endangered specie and is slowly recovering.

[1]: https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/disease-vectors/facts/mosquito-fac...


Less dead people is better then more dead people regardless of how you would look at this.


For the sake of argument - what about more alive people, but with more dead animals / species and with failing ecosystems if something would not go quite as foreseen with crispr method? That question is becoming more and more important as humanity has such larger potential of affecting the rest of nature - how much more valuable is human life over everything else on the planet...


There's still an issue with Zika and West Nile. And other unknown or future mosquito borne diseases.


Fewer predators of mosquitoes (dragon flies? Larvae eating fish, bats).

They eat nectar, so something else would have to take their place in pollinisation (probably no problem).

Increased population of mosquito prey - livestock, humans.

Overall, sounds like a risk worth taking.


Their are far more mosquito species that don't bite humans, those species would almost certainly fill the gap.


But will they still fly around my ears as I’m trying to sleep?

If so, in the bin they go.


Annoying is a far different proposition than plague-spreading.


If you can solve one, we're not much further from solving the other.

People do a lot to solve annoying.

Here's Winnipeg Canada's Nuisance Mosquito Fogging Program: https://winnipeg.ca/publicworks/insectcontrol/mosquitoes/nui...


Use earplugs.


Get over it.


Top-notch science here.


When has humans meddling in ecologies ever worked fine without huge negative side effects?


Well, sinking old scows offshore to make artificial reefs has worked out pretty well. Honestly most of the times that humans try to meddle in ecologies, as opposed to trying to do something else without thinking about ecologies at all, it tends to go all right? I can think of a few cases with huge negative effects and basically everything that anybody ever does will have some small negative effect but when people try to get it right it tends to go pretty ok.


Off the top of my head: Eliminating hookworm in the USA. Bringing wolves back to Yellowstone.


We can probably strike wolves off the list since it's a restorative act. In Yellowstone's natural state prior to human intervention it had wolves were part of the ecology.

The general way meddling in ecologies goes is that humans remove or add something and the entire ecology becomes grossly distorted. (Eg. Driving Sea Otters to near extinction creates a bloom of Sea Urchins, which devastate ocean habitat of so many other species etc etc)


Excellent point. Let us also strike eradicating invasive species from the list for being a restorative act. And then proceed with eliminating the Aedes mosquito from most of the places it is now found.



Eradicating smallpox?


Well, let's not celebrate our success on the war just after a battle was won, let's wait for the next battles first. We could have just made things worst and more threatening...

https://www.reactgroup.org/antibiotic-resistance/the-threat/

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-...

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4378521/


Also polio.


We have not yet eradicated polio globally. This year has actually been a setback in number of cases:

http://polioeradication.org/polio-today/polio-now/this-week/


It's bad, but still 99% down from what we had in 80-s :)


We of course should not eradicate all mosquitoes. We need to only eradicate the blood-sucking types.

Many mosquitoes do not suck blood; they eat plant products and / or suck plant juices. They could take over the ecological niche of the blood-sucking varieties, and can even be cultivated a little bit to support the local mosquito-eating populations of birds, bats, dragonflies, etc.


The fact that we know almost nothing about complex environmental chains and interactions, and we have made huge messes almost any time we attempted to mess with such a system (either on purpose or not).

Of course, Earth in the end will be fine (it will reach some other equilibrium), but tons of us might be wiped out in the process.


Can you point to any other species we’ve eradicated that has resulted in a massive human death toll? From my perspective we seem to be pretty good at killing things and getting away with it.


If those things are creatures like tigers, living in isolated environments, yes.

If they are creatures that live all around the environment and play into special roles, then no. E.g. http://sos-bees.org/situation/


Natural ecosystems are notorious for unintended consequences of intervention.


Biting mosquitoes is one of the few species I have no qualms about eradicating. Other related species do all the kinds of work in the ecosystem that they do, but without nearly the risk to humans. Eradicate them.


Pretty interesting knowing mosquitoes were weaponized in the past. The irony in the fact this took place in the modern era, and not in medieval times, where they were known for catapulting diseased carcasses.


Here's one solution: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_drive

The costs are so low that even a developing country could afford to do it, at a cost way lower than mosquito control by other methods.

Sure there are unknown consequences, but that probably won't stop them if their fellow countrymen are dying.


Has there been any research into eradicating the Plasmodium parasite, rather than mosquitoes?


There's a lot of research into anti-Plasmodium drugs in general (because they can be used in treating infected humans), but none have come close to being usable for general environmental dispersal that would try to eliminate the wild reservoir. Mixture of cost, resistance developing too quickly, and effects on other wildlife, so doing something like dropping quinine into forests from planes has never been a real option. This is in general very unlikely to work for diseases that have a significant non-human reservoir. Smallpox was able to be eliminated because it exclusively infects humans, so you only need to eradicate it from human hosts, not also from another extremely populous host like wild mosquitoes.

Another approach is to try to genetically engineer mosquitoes resistant to infection and have them replace the unmodified carrier versions, but that's essentially just a variant of the idea to eradicate the carrier-type mosquitoes: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/enginee...


I had a sci-fi-plot idea while swatting my nth mosquito on a camping trip last month.

What if we figured out how to repurpose mosquitos to deliver useful viruses instead of harmful ones? Just think about it: no more scheduling appointments for vaccines or flu shots, simply wait outside for 20 minutes in the summer, and before you know it you’re immunized against malaria, measles, etc.

Not being a biologist, I have no idea if this is a plausible scenario, but I hope that somebody investigates it! It might be a very cost-effective and democratic method of delivering care.

At the very least it’d make for a good black mirror episode :)


>What if we figured out how to repurpose mosquitos to deliver useful viruses instead of harmful ones?

Yeah, what could go wrong with this? It's not like those "useful viruses" could ever evolve out in the wild to something more threatening!


A great sci-fi plot! heh

But to be clear, some vaccines are "useful viruses" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attenuated_vaccine

Also gene therapy often uses viruses as a vector for delivery: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/therapy/procedures

So, it's not too crazy an idea.


I'm not an expert in this area by any means, but my understanding is that vaccines use dead viruses rather than live ones, and they need a particular amount over time. So this wouldn't allow the virus to be passed along by mosquito generations, and you obviously couldn't control the dose amount. So not sure how practical the idea would be.



An interesting article about the US army's fight against malaria in the pacific theater during WW II:

https://armyhistory.org/the-other-foe-the-u-s-armys-fight-ag...

TL;DR: By spraying DDT everywhere, and coercing troops to take Atabrine (that often had nasty side effects), they reduced malaria incidence by about 70%. The Japanese, by contrast had little protection - nearly all Japanese soldiers had malaria at some time.


One caution: pesticides like DDT are more effective at first, before the local population is selected for resistance. The big anti-malaria campaigns in the 1950s tended to report resistance being a significant impediment with a decade: http://gladwell.com/the-mosquito-killer/


It would be curious to know whether the resistance was just to the killing effect of the mosquito or if it still continued to repel and stop them from biting.

One of the huge advantages of DDT over later pesticides is that it stopped them from biting, the other ones keep them biting until they're dead.

I'm of the mindset that DDT should have remained legal as a residential application to the house (screens, nets, walls). The quantities applied here were much smaller than for agricultural use, and there has never been a study that convincingly showed harm to mammals. (Even the bird egg shell thinning theory was tenuous at best, TEL in leaded fuel could have had the same effect in the targeted time period)


> I'm of the mindset that DDT should have remained legal as a residential application to the house (screens, nets, walls).

The international anti-DDT treaty allows countries to take this route, and as a result DDT is still legal for residential use in some countries where malaria is endemic. The US opted for a total ban, though.


Is there a species as universally loathed as the mosquito?


Bed bugs are a thousand times worse!

I can easily protect myself against mosquitoes. It is much - much! - harder to get rid of bed bugs. The last time I had only one or two and it was a nightmare. I spare you the details, there are plenty of anecdotes out there. The net did not help at all. I was lucky to notice that one night when I accidentally had the blanket reversed - the part wehre the feet were, usually, was where my head was for that one night - I got bitten on the upper part of my body instead of the lower one. I immediately put the entire blanket including sheets into a plastic bag and threw it away. I had actually examined the sheet as well as the blanket very carefully and had found nothing. No idea where exactly those tiny critters were hiding, but afterwards I had no more bites. Seriously, with bed bugs you have to take extreme measures. In comparison, all you need against mosquitoes is a net! I learned to like mosquitoes now, given that nightmarish alternative experience with bed bugs. Mosquito bites are much more "friendly" and easier to live with too!


Bed bugs are manageable if you know that they are very susceptible to heat. They are very mobile at night and can travel 100 or 200 metres (as I recall).

The strategy then is divide and conquer. Choose one room and seal it off with masking tape and then steam every little crevice you can find. Keep that room sealed and sleep in there. Once you're not getting bitten you know that room is fine. Then move on to the next room. Rinse and repeat.

Some older homes have just too many cracks and crevices for this process to work. There are companies that will enclose an entire house in a big plastic bag and then heat up the entire thing to be rid of bed bugs. In any case heat and steam is the best weapon. I believe 50C for 24 hours is effective. Any kind of chemical attack would be hit and miss at best.


And even after heat treatment, the histamine they poop out can remain for up to 3 months. Stubborn little twits.

https://gizmodo.com/bed-bugs-are-pooping-histamine-into-our-...


Flea and bed bugs really drive people crazy. The nice thing about fleas is that in my experience they are easy to deal with (just fog them once, if it's really bad fog them twice, and they are gone).

But bedbugs -- I don't think that fog works on them. A friend of mine had to throw out a brand new bed couch to get rid of them. They really suck.


> Bed bugs are a thousand times worse!

Yeah, no. Bed bugs don't kill you. Mosquitoes do.


Bed bugs have long been assumed to be essentially a harmless nuisance, but research increasingly suggests they can transmit Chagga's Disease, the same infection carried by "Kissing Bugs" (so called because they frequently bite a person near the mouth).

https://entomologytoday.org/2018/01/30/study-further-evidenc...


Interesting. I am in NJ and someone I work with just got cardiomyopathy from Chagas (heart down to like 25% efficiency now), no idea how she picked it up. I will ask her if she ever had a bed bug infestation.


All blood sucking insects (e.g. ticks, bedbugs, fleas), all human parasites (e.g. Guinea worm).


Cockroaches


landlords


And lawyers, car salesmen, Facebook employees ...


scorpions?


[flagged]


Basically, Disney World does what it can with beneficial insects and reducing/larviciding water-traps, but will spray/fog insecticides when needed to control mosquito populations.

Even though it's built on a swamp, pouring concrete all over it helps a lot.

Some cities in Canada do the same. As do some Caribbean resorts.


tl;dr Carbon Dioxide traps.

I have no idea what all the tvtropes links are doing in this comment. Some weird kind of spam maybe?


Probably a copy paste thing. Formatting looks like markdown for reddit.


I agree with the formatting thing, but they've done it in several of their recent comments. Doesn't seem malicious, but they've done it with regularity.


They do what they can with CO2 traps, but they'll spray insecticide everywhere if they have to.

Some believe the CO2 traps are just used as a guide for when they need to spray/fog, which makes sense.


What's with all the tvtropes links? Seems pretty spammy.

They got rid of the mosquitoes using pretty standard methods - insecticides, CO2 traps, population monitoring... Chickens as disease-canaries (if they get a disease, focus on eliminating mosquitoes in that area)


A few years ago I decided to stop killing mosquitos. I still swat them, but my aim now is inflict PTSD on them so that they avoid environmental triggers that remind them of me, and all their offspring do the same. How can they learn if we kill them?

Has it worked? Prob not, but I feel like I’m doing something new at least.


Not sure if this is a joke. If not, they 'learn' by not surviving long enough to pass on their genes


There are numerous behavioral adaptations passed on via epigenetic methylation of the relevant genes in all species, mosquitos included.




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