The Story Of Mosquito Eradication
Mosquitos don’t have a lot of friends in the human world. Everyone has experienced the annoyance of these flying, biting pests for themselves, and nobody looks forward to a repeat encounter. When their populations grow large enough, mosquitos do a lot more harm than just breaking up picnics; the health risks and economic damage they can cause have inspired many campaigns of mosquito eradication, some of which are still ongoing.
Why We War With Mosquitos
There are three main things that mosquitos do to earn humanity’s wrath. For one thing, they’re an annoyance, making a nuisance of themselves and preventing people from enjoying outdoor activities. When they get severe enough, they become economic dangers by spoiling tourism and threatening livestock. Finally and most importantly, thriving mosquito populations are infection vectors for serious diseases. Malaria is the biggest threat posed by mosquitos, and even today it kills hundreds of thousands of people every year.
“Eradication” Vs. “Control”
Getting rid of mosquitos is usually termed “pest control” when it happens in backyards and homes. When major community and governmental resources are organized to stamp out the bugs, though, the result is usually called “mosquito eradication.” In the past, totally wiping out an area’s mosquito population was always the goal. Even the very latest efforts to control the insects (see below) are focused on killing them, albeit in inventive and technologically-advanced ways.
Historical Mosquito Eradication Programs
Once the link between mosquitos and malaria was discovered, aggressive programs to get rid of the insects were launched. These often focused on eliminating mosquito breeding grounds, principally by removing standing water. This strategy remains highly effective today. The very best results were achieved in the 1950s and 60s using widespread pesticide spraying, especially with DDT. Unfortunately, DDT was proved to cause serious environmental damage and to pose real health risks of its own. This has led to widespread bans on the pesticide, although it’s still in limited use in a handful of developing nations.
Today And The Future
The latest strategies for eradicating mosquitos are impressively high-tech. Two cutting-edge sciences are being called on for future eradication campaigns. One purely physical proposal is to use lasers for killing mosquitos. Although it sounds like science fiction, this strategy has been developed to a high level of effectiveness in laboratory settings, and deployment in the field is only a few years off.
The other promising way to fight mosquitos in the future is through genetic engineering. This can be done in a number of ways, such as breeding sterile male mosquitos and releasing them to take the place of fertile wild insects.
Despite all of the time, money, and brainpower that’s been invested in fighting them, mosquitos are still a serious threat to public health. This remains especially true in developing parts of the world where the healthcare infrastructure needed to fight mosquito-borne diseases is lacking. Mosquitos are so dangerous that there are serious arguments in favor of intentionally driving them to extinction. While that’s a question that has yet to be resolved, it’s certain that eradication campaigns will continue in the future in order to mitigate the dangers that mosquitos pose.