From improving insecticides to understanding mosquito senses to releasing genetically engineered populations to cause wild populations to collapse, finding mosquitoes is a never-ending battle.
These efforts are all designed to reduce the transmission of dangerous diseases that mosquitoes transmit – including dengue, Zika virus, and malaria.
Earlier this year we introduced you to Mozzie Monitors, a civic science project that aims to raise public awareness and knowledge of mosquitoes while improving mosquito monitoring in Australia.
Since then, project participation has grown rapidly and has produced some interesting results from reports across South Australia and North West Australia.
“So far we have collected more than 15 different types of mosquitoes in our program – a similar variety as in ‘professional’ surveillance programs,” says project leader Craig Williams of the University of South Australia. “We also found that mosquitoes are active all winter.”
Using the data, the project found that the most common species of mosquito in women in South Australia is Aedes notoscriptus, which is known to carry Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses.
The project still uses two different approaches: trap-based and app-based.
Craig Williams with a mosquito trap.
Photo credit: University of South Australia.
On a trap basis, participants catch mosquitoes in a plastic trap at home. Every few weeks, put the trapped mosquitoes on a card specially developed by UniSA to make it easier to visualize the insect. After photographing the insects, participants will be asked to email the images to the researchers. From there, one of the entomologists will count and identify the species collected.
On the app-based route, participants simply log all the pictures of mosquitoes that they see online on the iNaturalist website.
These data can help researchers understand the frequency of disease carriers in urban areas, and also help manage risk and control control efforts.
“Mosquitoes are really of huge public health concern,” Williams said. “They not only threaten the garden grill with their annoying biting, but also transmit diseases.”
According to Williams, those diseases in Australia are primarily Ross River virus and Barmah Forest virus, with cases of dengue in Queensland. However, with the information gathered, researchers may also be able to detect exotic invasive species.
“Some of the exotic species of mosquito that we want to better track can spread diseases like dengue and zika,” Williams says.
The added benefit, of course, is that the mosquitoes are attracted to the trap, which hopefully means a few less mozzie bites while you enjoy your summer barbecue!
Next, Mozzie Monitors plans to expand by introducing a program called Mozzie Month early next year. The program extends the reach of Mozzie Monitors to Brisbane, the Torres Strait Islands, Sydney and Darwin.
“This will take six weeks in February and March,” explains Williams. “We are testing a short program in the hope that we can do something like this every year as a ‘snapshot’ of Australian mosquitos.”
Visit the Mozzie Monitors website to register an interest in Mozzie Month or to find out how you can get involved.
We are interested in citizen science projects. If you know or participate in any, let us know by tagging us @ Cosmosmagazine on Twitter or by email Citizenscience@cosmosmagazine.com