DailyDirt: Kill All The Mosquitoes

from the urls-we-dig-up dept

Mosquitoes are a serious pest. They spread terrible diseases like malaria and dengue fever, and they’re just generally annoying to people. So it’s no surprise that quite a few methods have been developed to kill them off in significant numbers, if not entirely. There are actually thousands of different kinds of mosquitoes, and some of them are completely harmless to humans. But if we could target just the ones that spread diseases, we could prevent an enormous amount of death and suffering. Is it really safe to drive mosquitoes to extinction? Here are just a few ways we’re trying to do it (regardless of whether we should).

If you’d like to read more awesome and interesting stuff, check out this unrelated (but not entirely random!) Techdirt post via StumbleUpon.

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32 Comments
Leigh Beadonsays:

Re: Re:

Might be best to concentrate on the disease rather than the messenger.

Limiting disease vectors is a key part of preventing epidemics.

(I don’t disagree that you have to be incredibly careful when removing an entire species from an ecosystem, because there’s a huge danger of unintended consequences — but, if we only concentrated on the disease rather than the messenger, we’d all be a lot sicker/deader-from-plagues)

Mike Masnicksays:

Re: Re:

They’re also a part of various food-chains, which will fuck up if you wipe them out.

Actually, in that first link (the Radiolab segment) an expert talks about how it’s not at all clear that’s true, and in searching for such things, she couldn’t find any evidence of the importance of mosquitos for any system.

The Old Man in The seasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:Not finding information/evidence of the importance of ....

Mike,

The problem with her not finding any evidence of the importance of mosquitoes for any system is that her not finding evidence is irrelevant. The biosphere is so large and so complicated that we have only touched the very outer edges of information we can learn about it.

For all we know, the importance of mosquitoes lies in their function as a disease vector. Additionally, it may be the larval form that is essential for other organisms, not the adult form. It may be the adult male form that is the critical item. We just do not know.

The information about interactions between mosquitoes and other parts of the biosphere will take years, decades, or even centuries to understand.

As an aside, there is a view among certain scientific bodies that mangroves are a delicate environment and in particular places, there is legislative regimes to protect mangroves. Even to the extent that if you break off a single leaf and are caught, it is a massive fine of many thousands of dollars.

Interestingly, I grew up in areas with extensive mangrove environments and the observations made by the locals are that mangroves are incredibly resilient and durable. They quickly recover from massive damage caused by cyclones, flooding, storm surges. etc.

We just don’t know and any process that eradicates any species of mosquitoes completely may well affect the biosphere in ways we would never have thought of. We see enough of this when we introduce a new species in an environment. Cane toads anyone???

The unintended effects of our actions may take considerable time to appear or they may just be balanced out by other entities within the environment and biosphere. These are important areas of study, but we seem to be more in spending our time, money and effort on spy agencies, defence contracts, politicians’ breakfasts and atom smashers (not that I have anything against atom smashers).

Ninjasays:

Re: Re:

Actually, some species exist along with others and maybe could be eliminated with proper studies for the impact. The Aedes aegypt (spelling not checked) which is the host for dengue fever is just one of many species found here some with very similar habits but it’s the main vector spreading dengue. If it could be eliminated the cases would drop significantly.

The Old Man in The Seasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Count of all species?

What proof??

They have no idea of the number of species in existence today. Some estimates I have seen indicate the thinking that we have only seen a small proportion of the total number of species currently living.

So how on earth would they be even able to estimate the total number of species that have ever existed.

Mosquitoes aren’t deadly to mankind, it is the various other organisms that they can transfer between hosts that are the problem.

Using your logic, it could then be said that humans are deadly for the planet and need to be eradicated, you know, global warming, pollution, nuclear radiation (power plants, etc). I’m not advocating such a policy – just saying.

trollificussays:

Hmmm…now, that’s really odd.

DDT was banned for use against mosquitos quite a few years ago…’bout 1972 IIRC? And NOW we see the claim that they’ve developed immunity? Against something not being used to exert population pressure against the species??

That might require some further explanation. And “might require some further explanation” is a euphemism for “sounds like total and complete bullshit”.

trollificussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Yep. Resistance developed rapidly, even in the 50s. Didn’t take much research to confirm that. (Had to wade through both DDT-promotional and “WE didn’t kill those African kids” CYA slant though. Easy to tell which is which-the latter detail the history of the DDT ban by noting Kennedy’s panel on the subject, the former note the ban occurred during NIXON’S presidency, put into effect by NIXON’S new agency, the EPA.)

Clearly, DDT is no longer the magic bullet it once actually was (wiped out typhus and malaria outbreaks that significantly effected the course of WWII). Arguably, it was overuse that created the pressures leading to such rapid development of resistance.

Still, hard to blame Africans for being suspect of the motives of First Worlders when many argued for the DDT ban based on the fact that it did, indeed save lives, a prospect met with considerable dismay by some:

?My chief quarrel with DDT in hindsight is that it has greatly added to the population problem,?, Alexander King, found, Club of Rome;

Paul Ehrlich, repeatedly (who always wanted more deaths to confirm his own predictions…kind of selfish, I’d say);

?By using DDT, we reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries without the consideration of how to support the increase in populations.?, Michael McCloskey, Director, Sierra Club, 1971.

Of course, the Africans who are suspicious of Malthusian First Worlders may be the same folks who deny AIDS is real…maybe even some of the same who have advocated/carried out ethnic, tribal and religious genocides of various scales, so the ‘intrinsic value of human life’ seems to be much up for debate anyway.

Anonymoussays:

But if we could target just the ones that spread diseases, we could prevent an enormous amount of death and suffering.

But this is an argument against listening to you, Michael, because we could prevent a far more enormous amount of death and suffering by loosening our restrictive energy policies, and you’re against that.

So you’re clearly lying to us to manipulate us into doing what’s against our best interests merely because it benefits you personally.

salsays:

Population Control

Sierra Club Director Michael McCloskey explained his organization?s opposition to DDT in 1971, saying, ?By using DDT, we reduce mortality rates in underdeveloped countries without the consideration of how to support the increase in populations.?

Country after country witnessed malaria deaths and suffering drop by orders of magnitude:

? In Zanzibar, DDT spraying commenced in 1958 when malaria plagued 70 percent of the population. Six years later, frequency had dropped to 5 percent. After the DDT ban, case prevalence rose to between 50 and 60 percent.

? Malaria cases in Venezuela numbered 817,115 in 1943 when DDT entered the scene, but health authorities reported only 800 in 1958.

? In the 1950s, annual malaria cases in Nepal totaled two million, with a 10 percent mortality rate. Life expectancy was only 28 years. By 1968, there were 2,468 cases, and life expectancy reached 42.3 years in 1970. Officials credited DDT alone.

? Peru had practically eradicated malaria using DDT, but since spraying was halted there in the 1980s, malaria is once again a major public health issue.

? A 1959 pilot study conducted in Uganda reported malaria case prevalence in a high-risk area of 22.7 percent dropping to just 0.5 percent in 10 months. In surrounding variable-risk areas the rate declined from 12.5 percent to zero.

? Taiwan reduced its number of cases from more than one million in 1945 to nine in 1969. Soon thereafter officials reported the disease eradicated from the island, and it remains so today.

? The population of India in 1947 was 344 million, of which a mind-bending 21.8 percent was infected with malaria. Deaths reported that year topped 800,000. In 1965, outbreaks had dropped 99 percent and no deaths occurred.

art guerrillasays:

logically speaking...

wouldn’t it make more sense to let nature take its course, and only -as happens with malaria- the nekkid apes who develop coping/defense/immunity pass on their genes, etc, etc, etc…

are we not ARTIFICIALLY selecting for nekkid apes with no natural immunity/resistance ? ? ?
um, where does that strategy end up ? ? ?

and are we not over-populated given the amount of resources expended per person ? ? ?
maybe we should have let mother nature thin the herd some, instead of crowding 7 billion immune-deficient rats in a maze…

oh, wait, i forgot: we’re omniscient, omnipotent gods now, and can do anything we want and it turns out exactly as we want it to… snicker

art guerrillasays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: logically speaking...

well, yes…
given the paucity of your reply, it is difficult to infer exactly what you meant: but, yes, i would take my chances along with every one else…
(in fact, in a real sense, i already do: i NEVER go for the idiotic flu shots for LAST YEARS flu, and avoid medications in general… i get sick, i either get better without taking crap, or i don’t, so far i do…)
there are numerous problems: rich/elites would -of course- NOT abide by such strictures; and -of course- it goes against nearly every precious snowflakes self-centered perception that we all should live trouble-free lives and be immortal…
further, MOST nekkid apes can NOT separate out their PERSONAL preference, wants/needs/desires; and those preferences which would be better for SOCIETY as a whole…
i can: sure, living forever and not being sick is great for ME, but not necessarily for the totality of society… even as an aspie loner-type i recognize what MOST nekkid apes who are more socially normative do not: living forever is not necessarily the best solution for society as a whole…
not exactly a revelation, but certainly a point most self-centered nekkid apes avoid…

Michaelsays:

Don't care...

As far as I’m concerned, mosquitoes, fleas, yellow jackets and I’m sure there are a few other pests that are what I consider to be God’s mistakes. They serve ZERO purpose on our planet, outside of making our lives miserable.

If it were up to me, I would make it a priority to, in whatever fashion is available, permanently eradicate every last one of them. They only bring mankind misery without ANY redeeming value, in any way, shape and/or form, period, IMHO, of course.

I’m just sayin’…

Groakersays:

Re: Re: Don't care...

Parasites play a significant ecologic niche. Parasites populations bloom when prey populations become too large. This helps to balance out ecologic blooms. And many, if not most, parasites have their own parasites.

Yellow jackets are not parasitic, but they do keep down the populations of other insects. Do note that there are about 150,000 species of parasitic wasps that control other arachnids.

“So nat’ralists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum.”

Johnathan Swift

Danielsays:

ddt

The reaction of anopheles mosquitoes (the ones that spread malaria) to DDT was to avoid places where it had been sprayed. This meant that a small amount of indoor spraying could prevent the spread of malaria to people sleeping in their homes.
Using the indoor spraying technique malaria was almost wiped out. However the banning of DDT provoked by (now discredited) claims of ill effects from massive spraying of DDT on fields, has allowed malaria to stage a comeback, and now it is estimated that a million people a year die from it.
So Rachel Carson, a thoroughly nice person I am told, has actually killed more people than Hitler or Stalin or even than Mao!

Bobsays:

wipe out mossies ? good luck

Rather than eliminating malaria vector Anopheles species and other mosquitoes that spread other diseases, humans have spread those species all over the globe. Way to go !!

In fact, almost all western societies have managed to break the Malaria transmission cycle even tho all the species that spread the disease are still quite abundant and doing fine in former Malaria endemic areas, thank you very much.

And I very much doubt that humans have the power to wipe out ANY abundant mosquito species at all. If they could have, they already would have.

And I call BS on DDT ban for vector control – Tons are used this year and tons have been used every year since the 40’s for insect vector control. Also BS about Rachel Carson – she advocated the use of ANY effective pesticide for vector control in an intelligent manner – what is now called integrated pest management and which is now standard operating procedure world wide.

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