Mapping the mosquito

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Mapping the mosquito

Mapping the mosquito
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Head to the park for a picnic this summer and you might find you are the one who is on the menu.

In Europe, mosquitos are out in full force, especially in the regions hit worst by the recent flooding.

While some authorities are working on strategies to combat the influx, German researcher Iris Kröger is offering her body to the insects for the sake of science.

She wants to develop sustainable mosquito control.

“This is hardly talked about, but mosquitoes, even if they bother us, are part of our ecosystem. I think to a certain level we have to tolerate their existence. And of course there is an increase after the recent floods, but they will disappear again. We should just calm down a little bit,” she said.

People in lower Austria – who were badly hit by the floods – were not so eager to welcome more mosquitos into their neighbourhoods.

For the first time in the country, helicopters were used to spray repellents against the millions of insects expected.

The product used contains a bacteria which kills the larvae. It is supposed to be bio-degradable within 48 hours, but the measure has been criticised by environmental organisations.

It is poisonous if ingested by humans, and many see it as an unnecessary intervention into a fragile ecosystem.

In the meantime, Iris Kröger continues with her research, catching mosquitoes. Every 10 days she installs new traps in the woods, using dry ice to attract them. Between 50 and 1,500 mosquitos can be caught each day.

They will contribute to a “mosquito atlas”, tracking all existing mosquito species in Germany. Forty nine are known so far – most are harmless, but some can carry dangerous diseases.

Scientists are eager to know more about them so they can find a way to control their spread, safely.

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