Technology Drones used in Reunion to fight the tiger mosquito

Drones used in Reunion to fight the tiger mosquito

A miustic tiger. Illustrative photo. (- / EID MEDITERRANEE / AFP)

The tiger mosquito is strongly present overseas but also more and more in France. It stings like its traditional cousins, but above all it can carry potentially serious diseases such as dengue, chikungunya or zika. Suddenly, we try to limit its impact and its presence.

There are simple measures that can be taken and which are also recalled by the health authorities during this period, such as avoiding leaving an old basin full of stagnant water in the garden and in which these mosquitoes love. wade. There are more drastic measures if the mosquito is installed: we spray an insecticide and we kill everyone. But these products are not without danger and therefore it is necessary to avoid spreading them anywhere, especially near places of residence.

How about drones to fight tiger mosquitoes? Small drones that can be found on the market and which are used here to develop a new control strategy: the sterile mosquito!

The idea is to spread thousands of male mosquitoes in the infested areas which have been sterilized by irradiation, which will therefore seek happiness from wild female mosquitoes and suddenly stop their family history there, no offspring being possible. You multiply that by the number of mosquitoes released and, if the experiment works well, you decrease the presence of the species in a given area by the same amount or even make it disappear.

A first drone release has just taken place in Reunion, as part of a research program led by the Center for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD): 8,800 mosquitoes dropped suddenly, including scientists will follow the evolution, adaptation and impact on populations over time. The first results are expected by the summer.
Advantage of this method: it is controlled, it has been used for example for decades to fight against the proliferation of certain species of flies and it does not seem to have any impact on the environment.

There is also another method, but which asks more questions. Still on the same principle of using reproduction to weaken the harmful species, research is being carried out with genetically modified mosquitoes. The idea is that these mosquitoes transmit this gene to their offspring which can, for example, make it impossible for young females to pass to adulthood, or which can prevent them from transmitting the virus.

This transgenic method is notably proposed by a British company, Oxitec, which is currently starting a campaign to release hundreds of thousands of these “GMO” mosquitoes in Florida, a well infested area. But this is not done without some local reluctance on the part of the population which wonders about the impact of these transgenic mosquitoes. In a similar experiment in Brazil a few years ago, mutant mosquitoes appeared, worrying some local and American scientists.

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