Tens of thousands of insects have officially made their way throughout Florida's shores - intentionally. While it may seem alarming to some of us, scientists have actually released the genetically modified mosquitos in hopes of combatting a problem bigger than itchy arms or legs. Here's what we know so far...
For starters, don't worry. They won't bite - literally. The Sunshine State's latest experiment has called for setting free over 100,000 male nonbiting mosquitos in the hopes of controlling the diseases spread by the blood-sucking insect. Led by British firm Oxitec, the revolutionary project was years in the making but will only last about 12 weeks.
According to reports, workers have already hatched boxes containing mosquito eggs throughout three of the Florida Keys. But the genetically modified critters – dubbed OX5034 – will have carefully set plans once they make their way into our yards: The male mosquitos will mate with Aedes aegypti females, who are “responsible for virtually all mosquito-borne diseases transmitted to humans,” the mosquito control district revealed.
“As we are seeing development of resistance to some of our current control methods, we are in need of new tools to combat this mosquito,” Andrea Leal, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, explained of the growing concern. From the looks of it, Leal and her innovative lab have finally found the perfect solution.
The carefully bred insects have been modified to produce female eggs that don't make it past the larval stage. In other words, the OX5034's offspring will die before they can ever reproduce. As a result, mating will reduce the insect's population as a whole - as well as any potential dengue/yellow fever, Zika virus, and heartworm to our pets that may have been spread by the Aedes aegypti.
But that's not where this story ends. If things go as planned, the lab's next efforts might call for unleashing even more modified critters in both Florida and Texas. Up to 1 billion, to be exact. Oxitec has already obtained the Experimental Use Permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Be sure to stay tuned...