Lee County Mosquito Control using sterilization to fight the swarm

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

The Lee County Mosquito Control District plans to stop the county’s mosquitoes before they become a problem during the 2023 rainy season.

Paradoxically, the county’s plan involves releasing more mosquitoes.

“It may seem a little wacky to put more out, but more means less, in this case,” said Rachel Morreale, manager of applied science and technologies for the Lee County Mosquito Control District. “We actually rear our own mosquitoes in-house, and these are mosquitoes that came from Lee County. So there are our boys; we rear them in the lab.”

In this lab, the team uses X-rays to sterilize just the male mosquitoes. When the males are released into the environment and go to mate with the females, they don’t produce any viable offspring.

“Females only mate once during their lifetime,” Morreale said.

Don’t worry: Male mosquitos don’t bite, so releasing these males won’t mean any more bites for Lee County residents.

LCMC Deputy Director Eric Jackson says they’ve used this method, known as the “sterile insect technique,” previously on Captiva.

“It was very effective at dropping the population,” Jackson said.

Now, the technique is being imported to Fort Myers. Tuesday’s release is all about research. They’re doing what’s referred to as a “mark release recapture study,” releasing 34,000 sterilized males across 15 sites in Edison Park.

“Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be doing the trapping, find out where these mosquitoes are going, how far, what’s their flight range,” Jackson said. “Once we have that information, we’ll know how many mosquitoes we need to put out.”

If you see an orange or green mosquito flying around in the coming weeks, don’t be alarmed; it’s just how LCMCD keeps track of the male mosquitos.

There are 53 mosquito species in Southwest Florida. This experiment targets the Aedes aegypti, which is invasive and susceptible to carrying disease.

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