Why California suddenly has 20 million more mosquitoes

Picture taken on September 2, 2010 showing the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Alphabet Inc’s project will target these mosquitoes.

Trucks drive up and down streets of a town releasing millions of scientifically engineered mosquitoes during the dog days of summer?

No, this isn’t the plot of a science fiction movie. It’s what Google’s sister company “Verily Life Sciences” is up to in Fresno this July.

“Debug Fresno,” which launched Friday, is an initiative meant to “reduce the devastating global health impact that disease-carrying mosquitoes inflict on people around the world.”

How? The program will introduce tons of sterile male mosquitoes — which don’t bite — to mate with female mosquitoes — which do bite and spread diseases — so that the produced eggs won’t hatch. The specific target is the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which has plagued Fresno County since 2013 and is known to carry diseases like Zika, dengue and chikungunya.

The mosquitoes aren’t genetically modified, but instead infected with a naturally occurring bacteria known as Wolbachia. The company says this will be the largest U.S. release to date of such mosquitoes.

Here’s a short video explaining it all.

Debug Fresno is a study that may be conducted starting in the summer of 2017, pending approval from state and federal regulators, to test a potential mosquito control method using ...

“You should expect to see a heightened level of mosquito activity throughout the summer,” said Jacob Crawford, a scientist for Verily.

The program will target two neighborhoods over a 20-week period.

“This is only going to be temporary. Hopefully you see less and less biting females,” said Jodi Holeman, scientific-technical services director of Fresno County’s Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District (CMAD).

Aedes aegypti mosquitos have been detected elsewhere in California, including San Diego.

In 2016, San Diego County’s Department of Environmental Heal found that particular type of mosquito in 494 tests throughout the county. Here’s a map of where they were spotted.

Feeling creeped out?

(CMAD) created this nice little video to help you avoid mosquitoes in your area.

You Can Do Mosquito Control Fresno County, CA

Godspeed, Fresno.


Twitter: @abbyhamblin