Florida to fight mosquito menace by releasing thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes

Officials in Key West, Florida, have released thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes in the wild near Key West, to test a new way to kill mosquitoes that carried Zika and other viruses.

The 20,000 mosquitoes released by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District have been infected with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria, by the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate.

The offspring produced when the lab-bred mosquitoes mated with wild female mosquitoes will not survive to adulthood. Male mosquitoes do not bite and Wolbachia  is not harmful to humans.

"The eggs never even hatch," said Stephen Dobson, MosquitoMate's founder, Associated Press reported.

The infected mosquitoes were flown in cardboard tubes much like the ones used in paper towel rolls  from Lexington, Kentucky, to Key West on Tuesday morning. The mosquitoes were released at the Stock Island test site, about 25 acres with residential and commercial properties just north of Key West, by shaking or blowing into the tubes, according to Andrea Leal, the district's executive director.

"They liked the humidity," Leal said. "They were very happy mosquitoes."

The trial will last about three months, with twice-weekly releases. According to Dobson, seven Wolbachia-infected males would be needed for every one wild male in the field to drive down the mosquito population.

Meanwhile, another measure to reduce the risk of potential transmission of the West Nile or Zika viruses, gets underway today with county vector control crews treating San Diego area waterways.

The crews will target nearly 50 rivers, streams, ponds and other waterway in the region with aerial larvicide drops, that were harmless to humans and pets, but killed mosquito larvae before they turned into biting adults, according to the county.

The number of waterways thus treated would vary depending on whether or not they had dried up. The exercise will continue monthly through October.