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Preventing Mosquito-Borne Illnesses: Genetic Modification and IPM Practices

Live mozzie under the microscope

Baby critters arrive in the spring. As this happens, mosquitoes buzz around to find the perfect breeding grounds for fertilizing and laying eggs. As if being itchy wasn’t enough, Portland pest control experts warn that people on the West Coast are at risk for contracting the West Nile virus.

Advances in Mosquito Genetic Modification

To reduce the risk of dengue fever, scientists in Key West developed a genetically modified male mosquito that passes on birth defects to its offspring. The targeted species of mosquito is the Aedes aegypti because it’s a known carrier of the illness, which causes severe flu-like symptoms.

Since there isn’t a vaccine against dengue, the British company Oxitec developed the non-biting male mosquito that passes on genetic materials to prevent young offspring from reaching maturity. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the project, the hope is to release thousands of male mosquitoes and kill off the Aedes aegypti population within a few years.

Mosquito Control and Prevention

West Nile and dengue aren’t the same illness, but the viruses are similar in structure. If the Florida project is a success, there’s a chance genetically modified mosquitoes could also help eradicate the West Nile virus. Until then, West Coast residents will have to rely on tried-and-true integrated pest management methods, such as:

Eliminating sources of standing water. Mosquitoes breed and lay eggs in still waters. To prevent a mosquito presence around your home or business, empty water features that don’t have pumps; cover your pool; dump out water collected in planters; jump in puddles; and refresh the water in your bird bath regularly. When it comes to pest control, Eugene residents and those throughout the west should get rid of standing water as soon as they see it.

Planting mosquito-repelling plants. Such plants include citronella, horsemint (beebalm), marigolds, ageratum (flossflower) and catnip.

Wearing long sleeves and pants when mosquitoes are most active. Mosquitoes don’t like the heat, so they tend to come out at dawn and dusk. If necessary, use a DEET-based repellent according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Contact us to learn more natural pest control techniques.

[ Photo by: John Tann, on Flickr, via CC License ]

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