Florida Keys skeeter police testing one of two opposing strategies for using bacteria to squelch Zika-spreading mosquitoes
Beth Ranson/Florida Keys Mosquito Control District
Near Key West, Fla., mosquito-control officers are trying something new. They’re releasing more mosquitoes.
In a 12-week test running through early July, 40,000 male mosquitoes are being released each week with the eventual goal of preventing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika and dengue.
Instead of trying to kill the mosquitoes directly, a losing battle in Florida, a Kentucky company called MosquitoMate has infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with a strain of Wolbachia bacteria that makes the males disastrous dads. When these males mate with uninfected wild females, their offspring die before hatching.
The Florida trial is the latest in worldwide tests of two conceptually opposite approaches to using Wolbachia-infected mosquitoes as disease control officers. The better-known tack is to render mosquitoes less able to carry disease but leave them free to do what mosquitoes do. The approach now being tried in Florida