So a short while ago I ignorantly popped off

about an experiment to try to crash the mosquito population in an area with a lot of mosquito-borne diseases. A reader sends along this reply from somebody involved in the project:

The work I am doing in the mosquito lab is related to the possibility of releasing mosquitoes into the Florida Keys and other areas.

Pretty much, the plan is to raise a lot of male mosquitoes that either have the equivalent of a mosquito sexually transmitted disease, or are genetically modified. Either way, the released males will mate with the wild females (Hopefully more than the wild males). The females will then lay eggs which will be inviable and will die before they become adults. This technique has been used to crash mosquito populations in Brazil and other parts of the Caribbean. The male mosquitoes that are released are not capable of biting people since only females will bite. Therefore there is no chance of them spreading disease or biting people.

In the lab, we are doing research on mosquito reproduction. Once a male mates with a female, her hormones change and she will probably never mate again. This is good if these modified males are released, since every time they mate with a female she will not mate with a wild type male. Our research focuses on the fact that in some special cases a female will mate several times. If we know how many times this can happen, it can help us release the correct number of male mosquitoes to crash the population.
I hope this all makes sense. If you have any other questions, I would love to answer them. In addition, I know people who could, if I cannot.

Given my own criticisms of people mouthing off about the science of vaccination based on half-baked internet junk, it seemed particularly obligatory for me to retract and apologize for my stupid remarks. Listen to people who actually know what they are talking about, not dumb loudmouths like me.

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  • wlinden

    But… but…. genetic engineering! Ritually unclean!

    • ivan_the_mad

      Unless you were an investor in the 80s biotech boom & bust 😉

      • Joe

        Wow! Jurassic Park was all about that!

    • Rob B.

      Unclean, not necessarily. Dangerous, yes, especially if one lacks a moral center…

  • Rob B.

    Well done, Mr. Shea. It’s refreshing to see such honesty in the blogosphere.

  • Dan Berger

    Mark, have you read about the way the US successfully fought screwfly infestations? They took advantage of a similar “mate once” behavior, and released millions of males that had been sterilized with radiation. Worked great. Apparently this is a common enough technique that it’s got its own name.

    • wlinden

      And is the title of a Nebula-winning story.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” – Albus Dumbledore

    Thank you for allowing this person to shine a least some light onto the situation. No sense fearing something simply because we do not understand it.