A2: Microbes in the News

Article and link: Florida Tests Bacteria-Infected Mosquitoes to Kill off Bugs. USNews Associated Press. April 19, 2017. Link:  https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/florida/articles/2017-04-18/florida-tests-bacteria-infected-mosquitoes-to-kill-off-bugs

Summary: Bacteria-laden mosquitoes have been released in a segment of Florida in order to find how it affects the local wild mosquito population.  These mosquitoes mate with wild mosquitoes in the area, but their offspring are unable to survive.  Other methods are being created such as genetically modifying mosquitoes whose offspring can’t survive outside a lab and introducing them to the population.  All of this is supposed to be utilized as a cheaper form of pest-control.  Some people don’t wan’t GMOs of any kind in their area due to philosophical views.

Connections: We have studied the Zika virus in class, which is carried by mosquitoes.  This pest control is aimed to stop viruses such as Zika from being transferred as much.  Also, we have learned about bacterial pathogens in class.

Critical analysis:  I think this story is fascinating.  If I were trying to control mosquitoes, probably the last thing I would do is say “Add more mosquitoes to the area”.  But, this was done with some thought behind it.  If the infected mosquitoes highly outnumber the wild population, this will lead to less percentage of wild population males from mating and seems like a good way to limit population totals over time.  I feel the story is scientifically accurate, but I wonder if there are more flaws than most people would perceive.  What if the wild population recognizes these mosquitoes and don’t mate with them?  What if the infected mosquitoes can’t fertilize the wild mosquitoes so the wild female will continue to mate until fertilized by a fertile male regardless.  How often do you have to reintroduce these populations?  I think the article was written well, but I wish it delved into some of these possible questions addressed to provide me with a better idea of how feasible this is on a large scale.  I think it did a good job of communicating science because it picked a hot topic such as the Zika virus to bring to light new genetically modified capabilities as well as other means of pest control that the public is not used to.

Question: The article mentioned that the research team is trying to introduce the infected male mosquitoes at a rate of 7:1 compared to the wild males currently existing.  What methods are usually used to measure mosquito populations in such a wide open area?