To fend off aggressive female mosquitoes, L.A. is releasing thousands of sterile males

Evan Bush,  NBC News,  2024.

In Los Angeles, those who wage war on mosquitoes are adding a weapon to their arsenal: more mosquitoes. The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District on Thursday launched a pilot program to release tens of thousands of irradiated, lab-raised mosquitoes into the local environment. These mosquitoes are all male and have been sterilized by the radiation, so the hope is that they will find wild female mates and impregnate them with dead-end sperm, rendering the resulting eggs worthless. The target is a particular species, Aedes aegypti. The insects, which began to populate Los Angeles County in 2014, have evolved to hone in on one thing — you.

“Thousands of years ago, a strain of Aedes aegypti moved in close to people and started to specialize to live near houses and bite people,” said Daniel Hahn, a professor in the University of Florida’s Department of Entomology and Nematology. “They’re characterized as aggressive nuisance biters because they’ll bite you all day long.”

Aedes Aegypti thrive in backyards and make their homes in small containers like bottle caps and dog bowls. They can carry worrisome diseases like yellow fever, Chikungunya, Zika and dengue.

“We know our residents are suffering,” said Susanne Kluh, the general manager of the Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District, which serves 6 million people and has more than 90 full-time staffers. The district on Thursday released about 20,000 sterile male mosquitoes, dyed to appear fluorescent under a black light, as part of its final pilot program test. Male Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes don’t bite, so experts say the program poses near-zero risk to humans.

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