According to this article from the New York Post, the US just approved the mass release of male mosquitos infected with a bacteria that sterilizes them. The idea, according to the article and some inference, is that they'll mate with female mosquitos and impregnate them with non-viable eggs, causing a missing generation of mosquitos. Brilliant, right?

Well, no. Male mosquitos, from what I can gather, typically live less than a week in their adult phase, mating perhaps once while females will live for a few weeks mating, feeding, laying eggs and repeating until they die. Even if males and females both only manage to mate once, for every female you want to not produce viable young, you'd need to release one infected male. With a very conservative estimate of 10 trillion mosquitos in the United States, one generation per year, and current separation of male from female mosquitos in the lab by hand according to the article, you'd need to manually infect 10 trillion male mosquitos per year, for at least a few years, to make a serious dent in the mosquito population.

How does anyone think this is a practical idea?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not an expert on this, but I think you're right that they have to release many infected mosquitoes, and repeatedly. Instead of spraying a pesticide, which might target other insects or have negative consequences for people, I think they're releasing infected mosquiotos. So you have to continue doing it, and in large numbers. But you don't need to kill all mosquitoes in country, just where people are. Furthermore, ultimately goal is to limit transmission of diseases like Zika, not to kill all mosquitoes. Having fewer mosquitoes might limit spread of things like Zika among the mosquito pops. $\endgroup$ – rbatt Dec 6 '17 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ @rbatt Well even if you're just targeting the urban 0.1% of the country, and you're only trying to decrease the mosquito population by 10%, that's 0.01% of the 10 trillion mosquitos per year above, or one billion mosquitos, hand-separated, per year needing to be released to have the desired effect, every year. That's just as impractical as 10 trillion $\endgroup$ – TheEnvironmentalist Dec 6 '17 at 22:05
  • $\begingroup$ Well, there are a few extra things to consider. 1) it's not 1 infected = 1 dead. If you had 50% of the population infected, then the entire pop would die in 1 generation (because 50% of pop would be ~100% of males, then 100% females dead). 2) On the other hand, they also aren't replacing wild males with infected males ... it's a dilution. That makes it even harder. 3) As you start to decrease the population size, the problem becomes more tractable with each successive generation. If you go from 10 tril to 1 tril, that 1 tril is 10x easier to dilute the next time you try $\endgroup$ – rbatt Dec 7 '17 at 14:27

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