August 20 – Quite the buzz!

Today’s factismal: A citizen scientist in India has developed a simple and safe way to reduce the mosquito population.

Nothing ruins a sultry summer day quite like the bite of a mosquito. Ignoring the droning whine that keeps you from getting in a nap, there’s the sharp pain followed by the intolerable itch that a mosquito bite inevitably brings. Add in the realization that mosquitoes carry more than a dozen different diseases, including malaria, elephantitis, yellow fever, dengue fever (“breakbone fever”), chikungunya (similar to dengue fever), West Nile virus, and tularemia, and your nap is now less a luxury and more a case of tempting fate. Indeed, each year mosquito-borne diseases affect more than 700 million people across the globe and kill 2 million. It is no wonder that some experts call the mosquito the world’s deadliest animal.

Places that breed mosquitoes (Image courtesy Richardson Mosquito Patrol)

Places that breed mosquitoes
(Image courtesy City of Richardson Mosquito Control)

Fortunately, mosquitoes are a hazard that can be managed. Flood control measures in many states have significantly reduced the number of small, shallow pools of water where mosquitoes love to breed. And public education efforts have helped to reduce the number of places where water can pool (e.g., old tires, clogged gutters) while increasing the number of natural mosquito predators (fish, dragonflies, bacteria). And now, a citizen scientist in India has developed a new way to trap and dispose of mosquitoes.

His device is devilishly simple. It consists of a shallow breeding tray that periodically drains into a filter of salt and sand that kills any mosquito larvae; the filtered water can then be re-used in the breeding tray or sent down the drain. Because mosquitoes can only lay so many eggs, this method directly reduces the number of new mosquitoes in each generation and helps to reduce the hazard.

Of course, not everyone can create a death trap for mosquitoes. But everyone can help to reduce their numbers in the wild. And the best way to do that is to track the little suckers. If you live in the Baltimore area, consider joining in on the Baltimore Mosquito Project, where you’ll enter mosquito sightings and bitings so that that city can track down places where stagnant water and other mosquito attractors are located – and then get rid of them! And if you don’t live in Baltimore, then why not petition your city to start a program like theirs? The skin you save may be your own!

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