Should we kill all mosquitoes? –

Should we kill all mosquitoes?  –

With nearly 780,000 victims per year, the mosquito is by far the deadliest animal for humans (ahead of humans). What gives it a bad reputation is not always justified. Of the 3,600 species of mosquitoes listed, only about a hundred—including only females—bite humans to drain their blood; only three or four have a real impact on public health through the transmission of viruses and diseases.

The risk, however, is from growing concerns about the adaptation of these species to insecticides, the reduction of the effectiveness of antibiotics on transmitted diseases, as well as global warming. Tiger mosquitoes, for example, are now on the loose in many French regions. Raising fears of dengue epidemics through “indigenous” infections (occurring on metropolitan soil), whereas until now they were reserved for travelers from tropical countries. Even if the temptation to see them disappear is great, we must first “Know the mosquitoes before you want to kill them”warns Michel Collin, director of a design office specializing in insect science in Brittany.

Mosquitoes are part of life’s balance

Besides biting us, mosquitoes play an important role in the food chain. In the larval state, as insects or after their death, culicidae first serve as food for birds, bats, frogs or dragonflies. “Swallows from Africa have even been found to store mosquitoes in their feathers for food during migration”explains Michel Collin Green. A study published in the journal Science of the Total Environment in 2020 confirmed that mosquito control using the biocide Bti – specifically used in the Camargue – could lead to a decline in bird populations by removing an important food source. Gluttonous on plant debris, mosquito larvae also participate in water filtration and soil fertilization. Finally, these insects are also pollinators, even if their contribution remains anecdotal compared to bees or butterflies.

The Impact of Mosquito Control on Biodiversity in the Camargue, a short film produced by MoPA students in educational partnership with Tour du Valat.

Genetically modified mosquitoes tomorrow?

“There is no specific mosquito predator”, however the shade Frédéric Simard director of the Institute for Research for Development (IRD). According to him, “If the mosquito disappears, other insects will immediately come to take its place.” However, there is no question of trying to eradicate it. Aiming would be enough the most dangerous species in populated areas ».

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Target Malaria is developing a genetic modification project to reduce the fertility of malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “Here we see it as science fiction, but in other environments these are solutions that could be adopted to preserve life,” assesses Frédéric Simard, highlighting the cost-benefit analysis. “It can’t get any worse than what’s already happening”supports Éric Marois, researcher at the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm), doc “Insecticides have wreaked immeasurable havoc on humans and ecosystems, including causing cognitive impairment in some children”.

Ecosystem preservation, so that natural predators regulate mosquitoes, remains the best solution to combat their nuisance. “Introducing new predators will always risk causing an imbalance and implies that we can produce them industrially: not easy for dragonflies, bats or carnivorous plants! »right up to Green Eric Marois. Therefore, it is better to protect the existing species now, for example equip cities with hotels for swallows, which make them a feast. Betting on the sterilization of males, or the placement of traps that imitate human breathing and smell, experts agree that the response to mosquito attacks will not involve eradication, but the use of a diverse panel of solutions.

This article is from our Le vert du faux section. Preconceived ideas, current questions, orders of magnitude, verified figures: every Thursday we will answer a question chosen by Vert readers. If you’d like to vote for the question of the week or suggest your own ideas, you can subscribe to the newsletter here.

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