The Path To Stopping Malaria Isn’t Exterminating Mosquitoes

The Path To Stopping Malaria Isn’t Exterminating Mosquitoes

Technology is constantly evolving, and soon we will be able to neutralize the danger mosquitoes pose to humans

Mosquitoes are the worst, their bites are itchy and annoying, they can transmit blood-borne diseases such as malaria and yellow fever, and seem to be impervious to the debilitating effects of bug spray. So what would happen if we killed all the mosquitoes, and lived in a world where there were no blood-sucking flying insects. Humans are notorious for making species go extinct, so if we put our minds to it, it shouldn’t be too hard to get rid of these bloodsuckers. Not exactly.

There are over 3000 different varieties of mosquitoes worldwide, but only a few hundred of them bite humans. Mosquitoes have been around much longer than humans — the first fossil evidence of a mosquito was from 46 million years ago — and have survived all sorts of predation and climate change. To truly exterminate all mosquitoes, it would be a herculean task, and many of these deaths wouldn’t affect humans at all.

We have tried to exterminate mosquitoes before, mostly using chemicals like DDT that turned out to be horrible for both human health and the environment. For the sake of argument, let’s pretend that we could eliminate all mosquitoes in an environmentally friendly way. In this hypothetical scenario, we all wake up tomorrow morning, and poof — no more mosquitoes. Would that be a bad thing?

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito around” ~Lhamo Thondup, 14th Dalai Lama

A few scientists argue that it wouldn’t be bad, and that if mosquitoes were suddenly ripped from the food chain, ecosystems would heal quickly and other organisms would fill the gaps. Many other scientists argue that mosquitoes play an important ecological role in their various niches. One example of this is in northern Canada and Russia, mosquitoes make up a large percentage of the biomass, and are useful both for pollinating plants, and acting as a food source for migrating birds. This brings up the question of whether removing the food source for so many species could send a shock-wave through the ecosystem, endangering many other plants and animals.

environment science mosquito future technology data science

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