Faced with the progression of the tiger mosquito, the canton of Ticino has devised a new means of control. Researchers use sterilized, pink-stained male mosquitoes to mate with females.
Several methods have already been tested in Ticino to curb the spread of Aedes albopictus (scientific name of the tiger mosquito) and the potential transmission of dangerous viruses. But they are not enough, hence this new complementary method borrowed from agriculture to combat parasites.
The principle is simple and non-polluting: it involves mating females (they alone bite) with males sterilized with X-rays and tinted pink in order to recognize them.
Reduce the population by three quarters
A few days ago, between 10,000 and 15,000 mosquitoes treated by a specialized laboratory in Bologna were delivered by the Italian professor Romeo Bellini.
“The objective is not to eliminate the tiger mosquito, it would be too ambitious at present”, underlined this researcher in an interview with RSI. “But a reduction of 70% to 80% would be enough to improve the environment and reduce the health risk.”
“The mosquito will find the mosquito”
Concretely, it is a question of catching mosquitoes using biocides. “In Ticino we operate on the aquatic phase, it is cleaner and ecologically better tolerated”, according to Eleonora Flacio, researcher at the Institute of Microbiology of the University of Ticino.
Then, “it’s the mosquito that will find the mosquito, that is to say that it can enter places that escape us. It’s a rather interesting way of working”, specified this great specialist who conducts operations in the canton.
The experiment is part of an international project that was to be funded by the WHO, but the money never arrived. This first stage, carried out south of the Alps, will be financed by the city of Basel, which wishes to support the project. Eleonora Flacio hopes that several weekly operations will follow in 2023, provided the necessary funds are found.
>> Re-listen to the Point J episode dedicated to the tiger mosquito:
Nicole of the Stone / oang