Millions of mosquitoes were released in Miami, a sight that should be something straight out of a horror movie. However, in this case, it is actually good for the community.
The mosquitoes, released in South Miami's Brewer Park, are seen as a potential solution to the rising mosquito population and the diseases that the insects are known to carry.
Mosquitoes Infected With Wolbachia Bacteria
Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division released millions of mosquitoes that were bred by MosquitoMate as part of an initiative to kill off mosquitoes that may spread the dreaded Zika, dengue fever, and chikungunya.
Isn't it counterproductive to try to control the mosquito population by releasing more of the insects into the wild? The answer is no, because the mosquitoes come with several special characteristics. For one thing, they are all male and are infected with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria.
The bacteria are not harmful to humans, but when the male mosquitoes infected with it mate with female mosquitoes in the wild, the offspring that will be produced will not survive to adulthood. The people behind the plan are hoping that this will lead to lower populations of the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which live in in urban and suburban environments and are known to be carriers of disease.
The initiative used funding of $4.1 million, from federal money that was allocated to address the Zika virus outbreak. The plan, which will involve the release of 6 million of the mosquitoes over six months, if successful in South Miami, may be rolled out to other hot spots where the mosquito population needs to be addressed.
Are The Mosquitoes Safe For Humans?
MosquitoMate received approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in November last year to release the Wolbachia bacteria-infected mosquitoes into several regions of the country. This means that the procedure is safe, and residents of Miami should not worry about it.
The laboratory-bred male mosquitoes also do not bite, which should quell people's concerns that more insects will be snacking on them when they are out.
"Don't swat these guys. They're important," said MosquitoMate field manager Patrick Kelly.
Verily, previously known as Google Life Sciences, worked with MosquitoMate and Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District in developing the Debug Project. The initiative also looked to release millions of Wolbachia bacteria-infected mosquitoes and started in June 2017 in Fresno.
The Wolbachia bacteria could not be transmitted through the saliva of mosquitoes, which means that humans will not get it by being bitten by the insects.