Miami Begins Using New Mosquito Trap In Zika Control Efforts

Sep 13, 2016
Originally published on September 13, 2016 5:26 pm
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The battle to stop the spread of Zika is leading to new technologies for controlling the mosquitoes that carry it. Some involve releasing genetically modified mosquitoes into the wild, controversial measures that have been met with public resistance.

But there is another new technology now in use in Florida. It's a trap recently approved by the EPA. It kills mosquitoes by eliminating their breeding sites. From Miami, here's NPR's Greg Allen.

GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: It's an innovative system that's been shown to significantly reduce mosquito populations, but the In2Care Mosquito Trap doesn't look that impressive. It's basically a black plastic bucket - decidedly low-tech.

At a warehouse in Miami, Raoul Persad takes a trap apart.

RAOUL PERSAD: This looks like a flower pot, and you know, it's a standard container. But this piece of black plastic has a lot of innovation behind it.

ALLEN: It's the kind of container that female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes love. That's the species of mosquito that carries Zika, dengue and other tropical diseases. Aedes aegypti females like to lay their eggs in man-made containers. They prefer dark places.

The In2Care traps have a scent that lures females in a place for them to lay their eggs. That place is a gauze strip loaded with two compounds, including a powerful larvicide that kills mosquitoes before they become adults.

Parsad is with Univar, the company that distributes the In2Care traps in the U.S., Caribbean and Latin America. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is difficult to target with pesticides, he says, because females lay their eggs in as many as a dozen different breeding sites.

PERSAD: The trap uses that behavior, attracts the mosquito to the trap. She gets contaminated with the larvicide, and then every single site that she visits, she contaminates that site. She kills her own offspring as well as the offspring of other mosquitoes.

ALLEN: The female is also contaminated by a second compound on the gauze strip, a fungus that kills her after eight to 10 days. That allows her to live long enough to spread the larvicide to hidden breeding sites the mosquito control inspectors might never find.

REMCO SUER: Yeah, and I think that's what really - what I really like about the trap. The cryptic breeding sites - that's the most difficult part.

ALLEN: Remco Suer is one of the founders of In2Care, a company based in the Netherlands. In2Care is currently testing in Africa a system designed to control Anopheles mosquitoes which spread malaria.

Five years ago, he and his fellow researchers began working on a way to control Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to stop the spread of dengue. Suer says it also carries many other diseases.

SUER: Like chikungunya, which was just coming up in the Caribbean, and now of course Zika. But there are many more. Currently there is also an outbreak of yellow fever in Africa, and it's the same mosquito. So yellow fever might be the next Zika.

ALLEN: In2Care says field trials show the traps kill all adults that enter and all of their offspring and that the mosquito breeding sites are reduced by 60 percent. Future field trials should provide data on how much the traps reduce mosquito populations over the long term. But the traps are already in wide use in the Caribbean by resorts, hotels and homeowners.

In Trinidad, Troy Alcantara, the manager of one of the largest pest control companies, says customers like them because they don't disperse large amounts of pesticide. How effective they are, he says, depends on how many traps are set out in an area where mosquitoes are active.

TROY ALCANTARA: Because of the mode of action, I think the more people that use it in a neighborhood, the better the results will be.

ALLEN: In the U.S., the EPA recently gave In2Care permission to sell the traps to mosquito control agencies in states where there's local Zika transmission. In Miami, the county is setting out traps in two neighborhoods where mosquitoes have been carrying Zika. In2Care believes the traps will be most useful when they receive full EPA approval and are available for sale to the general public possibly by the end of the year. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.