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Sterile Insect Technique reduces Lee County mosquitoes

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host. Original image sourced from US Government department: Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
rawpixel.com / Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source)
/
CDC
A female Aedes aegypti mosquito obtaining a blood meal from a human host. Original image sourced from US Government department: Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Lee County Mosquito Control District released thousands of mosquitoes in Fort Myers to bring down the population.

As we head into the rainy season, you will certainly notice an increase in the number of pesky mosquitoes in your life. What is the Lee County Mosquito Control District doing to bring down their numbers? Believe it or not, last month they released more mosquitoes – 30,000 more, as a matter of fact.

That’s because they are releasing male mosquitos that have been sterilized. As you may know, male mosquitoes don’t bite, females do: They need the blood to fertilize their eggs.

Rachel Morreale runs the lab at the Lee County Mosquito Control District.

“We are able to separate the females from the males in the lab, and then we irradiate the males to sterilize them,” she said. “And then we take those sterilized males to the field and release them.”

The males then go on to mate with female mosquitos. But they will not actually reproduce.

“And then the females will lay eggs that do not hatch,” Morreale continues. “That's how we have the population declines.”

The program targets the aedes aegypti mosquito, an invasive species that is the vector for such dangerous viruses as dengue fever, Zika, and chikungunya.

The agency used this method successfully a few years ago on Captiva. Last month, they implemented it again in the Edison Park neighborhood of Fort Myers.

The researchers are also looking to measure how far the sterilized males travel, so the insects are covered in a fluorescent powder, then trapped and counted.

The sterile insect technique has been used since the 1950s. The agency hopes to use it throughout Lee County as the rainy season continues here in Southwest Florida.

Copyright 2023 WGCU. To see more, visit WGCU.

Cary Barbor