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Mosquito Sweet Tooth

January 6, 2014

The mosquito’s sweet tooth could be its Achilles’ heel.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Targeting mosquitoes’ weakness for sweets. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Mosquito Susanne Bard

Mosquitoes are best known for sucking blood, but they also have a sweet tooth. (Susanne Bard)

While mosquitoes are best known for their appetite for blood, they also have an insatiable sweet tooth, which they satisfy by feeding on flowers and fruit. Biologist John Beier at the University of Miami conducts research into controlling the insects using Attractive Toxic Sugar Baits, or ATSBs.

JOHN BEIER (University of Miami):

With these attractive toxic sugar baits, we find that if you properly put them out into the environment, you can kill off large populations of mosquitoes.You can take a very high density situation and make it into a low density situation.

HIRSHON:

In fact, Beier and his colleagues report reductions of local mosquito populations by 70% or more in malaria-plagued communities in Africa. The pesticides used in the baits can be much less toxic than spray pesticides, and studies have found that they kill mosquitoes almost exclusively, sparing other insects. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.