Mosquito Madness


I had to post about this in the hopes that our audience would have some thoughts for me about the city of Chennai’s new plans to get rid of mosquitoes. Instead of sticking with spraying and trying to eliminate their breeding grounds, a strategy that’s been an abject failure so far, the city appears to have found something new.

First, the city will install special glass houses of 20 ft by 100 ft in different neighborhoods where they will grow mosquitos.[1] Entomologist B. M. Rex explains the rest in an article in The Hindu today:

“A minimum of one lakh mosquitoes can be grown out of which 40 per cent may be male. The females will be separated by attracting them using male pheromones and then, killed. The male mosquitoes will be subjected to gamma radiation of appropriate dosage to make them sterile. The sterile male will be introduced in neighbourhoods with high mosquito density”… The female mosquitoes that breed in such neighbourhoods will lay infertile eggs. After the female lays eggs, it dies; the infertile eggs will not to hatch. This will lead to reduction in the number of mosquitoes.

But that’s not all.

The civic body is planning to tweak this technique in such a way that its sterile male mosquitoes will be able to successfully compete with existing normal male mosquitoes. The challenges such as exorbitant cost in procurement of pheromones to separate male from female, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board clearance in commissioning equipment for emitting gamma radiation and trained manpower will be overcome by the civic body by a specially chalked out strategy. The existing fogging operations will continue to be carried out by the civic body for mosquito control.

I hate mosquitoes.[2] But doesn’t this seem like those really complex traps that enemies lay for James Bond, where he escapes 100% of the time?

[1] This is in a city where they cannot even find room to build a public toilet near every slum and bus depot.

[2] Long time readers of TVFC will know that I once rented an apartment that was primarily a home for mosquitoes where I also had a bed. Living there was one of the most trying experiences in my life.

  1. Liz said:

    Mosquitoes ravage me. They are my mortal enemies. Yet this announcement nearly fills me with pity for them. Nearly. I predict a result that combines your Bond hypothesis with a weird cheap sci-fi movie that results in the unleashing of the Super Mosquito. God help us all.

    • nraman said:


  2. This is by far the best post in TVFC history, a strong example for those who claim Nraman is “the funny one.”

    • nraman said:

      This comment supports my claim that you’re “the perceptive one.”

  3. naman said:

    First, awesome blog.

    I can’t imagine anyone doing this at a city level – I wonder if our institute’s Chennai field office has a hand in this… The sterile part is fine. It’s been effective for other insects but not really mosquitoes or malaria. It’s the enhanced competition bit which surprises me. I suspect the simple answer – poor reporting, combined with poor understanding of science, equals this.

    • nraman said:

      Thank you!! I found some reports that said it’s effective in other places, but the cities reported upon seem to be much smaller, and the trials have been very short. From the limited googling I did, it seems like the whole thing is still fairly experimental. What is your institute, and can I visit? I love learning about mosquitoes and malaria, and would love to know more about what’s happening in Chennai.

  4. Suma said:

    Is the main purpose of this to rid mosquitoes because they are annoying or to reduce transmission of malaria?

    • nraman said:

      Considering the number of annoying things here that have NOT been addressed, I’m guessing it’s the latter. They also transmit dengue, which has been on the rise lately.

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