Whoever said “If a little is good, a lot must be better” surely didn’t have mosquitoes in mind. But that’s essentially the strategy being used by scientists in California, who are attempting to fight the overpopulation of mosquitoes with … more mosquitoes.

Combating the Spread of Mosquitoes

“Debug Fresno” is the working name of a project launched by the Fresno Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District. The project’s goal was to test and eventually implement an innovative mosquito control solution.

The program is based on the sterile insect technique, which dates back to the post-WWII years. Over a period of several weeks, millions of sterile male mosquitoes are released into an area. As a result, the mating process produces no viable offspring. Since male mosquitoes don’t bite, they are relatively harmless to humans.

Debug Fresno Makes Its Debut

In 2016, district director Steve Mulligan partnered with a Kentucky-based company called MosquitoMate and Verily, a research and development company under the same corporate umbrella as Google. During the same year, Debug Fresno underwent a small trial run before its rollout in 2017.

From July to November of last year, Debug Fresno was conducted in the Fancher Creek section of Fresno and the Harlan Ranch neighborhood of nearby Clovis. Trap and monitoring data captured during the peak of mosquito season showed a 68 percent reduction in female mosquitoes.

Encouraged by the results, Debug Fresno is back at it this year with an expanded scope. The Loma Vista neighborhood in Clovis has been added, while the release of mosquitoes began last May and runs through the end of the year.

Why Mosquitoes Pose a Threat

With nearly 30 mosquito species in the area, Fresno is a prime target for the project. According to Mulligan, mosquitoes are more than just an annoyance as they have the potential to carry diseases such as West Nile virus.

An even more dangerous species began invading the area in 2013. The aggressive Aedes aegypti mosquito bites throughout the day rather than just during the night. It’s also known to be a carrier of dengue, Zika virus, yellow fever and other serious diseases.

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