One of thecraziest science experiments is being unfurled this year and it could change life as we know it. If you hate the existence of mosquitos, you’ll want to pay close attention to this.
12,000 male mosquitos were released in the Florida Keys in late April. Why? Scientists have engineered these mosquitos with special traits to pass on to the natural mosquitos plaguing the southern most U.S. state.
The mosquito in questions is the Aedes aegypti, also known as the yellow fever mosquito. While this species originates from Africa, thanks to global travel it has made its home in other tropical and subtropical regions around the world.
While the Aedes aegypti only forms a small portion of the mosquito population in Florida, it’s responsible for most of its cases of yellow fever, Zika, and chikungunya. These diseases can be deadly, especially in less developed regions where mosquitos run rampant and healthcare is less accessible.
The male mosquitos will mate with females of the existing Aedes aeqypti population. These males carry a genetically modified trait that will cause female spawn to die before they reach an adult age.
Besides limiting the rate at which the mosquito population can reproduce, only female mosquitos bite humans, potentially transmitting dieseases. Fewer female mosquitos means a reduced risk at getting bitten. Eventually, the population should, in theory, vanish completely.
The altered mosquitos have also been given a gene that causes their bodies to glow under certain light. This allows scientists to track the mosquitos and their spread among their species.
If all goes well, this experiment will be the means of eradicating one of the world’s deadliest pests. However, there are already some concerns that have been brought up making this a controversial project.
For starters, it is unknown how this new mosquito breeding will affect local ecosystems. Many animals such as frogs, birds, and spiders rely on mosquitos as a source of food. Taking away an entire species, no matter how small, could have some unintended consequences on other animals.
There’s also a very slight chance that this turns into a ‘ratbird from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs’ type of situation, but that’s highly unlikely.
As of right now, life will continue as normal for you this summer. Mosquitos will continue to be a problem for the distant future, so take all the necessary precautions to keep you and your family safe. Use insect repellant when spending time outdoors and keep doors and windows closed to prevent mosquitos from entering your home.