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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 06:59 PM

(US National Library of Medicine)

They buzz. They bite. And they have killed more people than cancer, war, or heart disease. Here’s the question: If you could wipe mosquitoes off the face of the planet, would you?

Ever since there have been humans, mosquitoes have been biting us, and we’ve been trying to kill them. And, for the most part, the mosquitoes have been winning. Today there are over 3000 species on pretty much every corner of Earth. Mosquito-borne diseases kill around 1 million people a year (most of them children) and make more than 500 million people sick. But thanks to Hadyn Perry and his team of scientists, that might be about to change. Producer Andy Mills talks with author Sonia Shah about the difficulties of sharing a planet with mosquitoes and with science writer David Quammen about the risks of getting rid of them. 

Oh, and we visit a mosquito factory in eastern Brazil.

And after listening, read this, from Radiolab producer Andy Mills: what if we don't kill 'em all?

Special thanks to reporter David Baker


Andy Mills, Hadyn Parry, David Quammen and Sonia Shah


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Comments [132]

Harald Sarebjörk from Sweden

???..I indeed have seen quit a few of them under the stereo..but..but neever observed the teeth..! ( probably as I was borne -37 ) But I do have seen the syringes !!

Feb. 15 2018 10:44 AM

Screw mosquitos. I mean, sure, we can use them to benefit us, but they're still just dumb bugs. If I see one, I'll kill it.

Sep. 26 2017 05:41 PM
Sam from Germany

Mosquitoes are an important part of the diet of bats. Especially in North America. Focus conservation efforts on bats and the chance of a mosquito population boom goes down.

Jul. 15 2017 07:37 AM
Andrea from South Dakota

You say the diseases go away if the mosquito goes away for long enough and the disease can't be transmitted between humans any more.
This only works if the disease is only in a human-mosquito system, like Malaria. But this doesn't work if we deal with diseases like West Nile, which is actually the most important mosquito borne disease in the USA (according to the CDC It is transmitted between mosquitoes and birds and only occasionally spills over to human populations. As long as the disease is in the birds, we can't get rid of it.
And the highest incidence rates within the USA are in rural areas in the northern great plains and not in cities.
I just want to point out that getting rid of mosquito borne diseases is not as easy as you make it sound.

Jul. 10 2017 03:57 PM

I read that they've been cleared to try this in Florida! :) Can we do this all over?

Can't wait for the day some fringe-group of wackos starts campaigning to "save the mosquito" from EXTINCTION!

I personally take a live-and-let-live attitude (outside my home, inside it's different because it's MY domain,) so when I'm walking down the street, and come across a cockroach, for example, I don't step on it, and make a point of trying to avoid doing so. (Again, if you're a roach, and I catch you in my home, it's ON...) and I feel this way about critters of all types outside.

Except mosquitos. If I come across you in the wild, and you're a mosquito, I will do everything in my power to kill you. I see this as species self-defense issue. Even if you're a male, and so you never bit anyone, and never would, you might mate with a female, make little female baby mosquitos, who when they grow up, DO bite, and spread disease, so if I can prevent that, I will.

Also, through ignorance, I admit I can't tell a male from a female mosquito, so if I see you, I'm going to assume you're female, you're carrying every communicable disease under the sun, and if I'm wrong, I apologize in advance, but I'm still going to kill you.

Looking forward to a world free of human-biting mosquitos.

Aug. 06 2016 01:07 PM
Judy from Paterson, New Jersey

Listen, Sir/Madame
To "KILL" Mosquitos try spraying CITRONELLA Essential oil or GARLIC better yet we can PRAY and ask GOD for the ANSWER!

Jun. 28 2016 05:06 PM
Montalvo from Puerto Rico

This is interesting. Why is this not coming up again now with the problem of Zika virus. Please, re-visit this topic.

Jun. 03 2016 02:21 PM
DrDave from Exeter, UK

BBC Radio 4 take, available for a week from 29 Mar 2016

Mar. 29 2016 09:36 AM

One person says, "Mosquitoes were created for some reason, though it might be unknown, they are here for a reason. That is why I believe I wouldn't wipe mosquitoes off the face of the earth."

I don't think that even the most ardent believer in God would hold that polio virus, etc. should not be thwarted in their dealing out of disease and death because they "were created for a reason."

Feb. 19 2016 10:41 PM
Kathleen Burbank from Oregon

Why is this not even coming up as the Zika virus is making all the headlines! Please do another show on this to explain why this isn't the action WHO is taking?

Feb. 02 2016 08:16 PM
Renata Barros from Brazil / Norway

Hei Radiolab: look at this article:
If the studies they suggest are right, it might help cast another light on oxitec and on this story!!

Jan. 29 2016 08:11 AM
Dominick from Brooklyn, NY

Upon reading a the recent news article about more than 2,000 infants diagnosed with Microcephaly in eastern Brazil, I immediately of this piece you all did in March regarding the genetic engineering of Mosquitoes going in that very area. It seems like this story might be worth revisiting.

Dec. 24 2015 11:46 AM
Frank from Yuba City, CA

The comment that "there are no mosquitos in California" is just plain ignorance. I live in N. CA, and particularly across the road from a rice field (of which there are acres and acres of in N. CA). During the summer months you don't go outside between 6 and 10 or so at night unless you douse yourself with a healthy dose of Off...and the Deep Woods stuff at that.

If the comment were There Are No Mosquitos in S. CA, well maybe that's true. But let's not play as loose as to paint the entire state with one broad brush. And personally, I'd love to see these hyperactive protein producers come into the arsenal of my local mosquito abatement department.

Oct. 02 2015 03:46 PM
Archimbold S. Hannibal

I personally try to kill mosquitoes whenever they come near me (albeit being mostly unsuccessful). However, when it comes to eradicating an entire species I don't think that would be best. To control their population, or to severely limit them in areas where they cause the most damage would good. Entire eradication could have highly adverse effects, besides being awfully ethically unsound.

Feb. 02 2015 08:40 PM
Mohabee Serrano

Interesting comments to think about. I'm wondering, though, about the fish that eat mosquito larvae, and the birds and mammals that eat the fish, including us humans. If we completely wipe out mosquitos, we might not have fish, pelicans, bears, or song birds. So let's weigh the benefits of not having mosquitos (less disease, fewer human casualties) with the natural balance that we tinker with far too often, and fail to control well. Yes, we lose loved ones and human counterparts to disease, and most of us has experienced a mosquito bite welt on the arm or on another body part.

The balance says let's try to eradicate the species of diease, and not the carrier of the disease. Dengue and malaria can be controlled, if not wiped out. Let's focus on doing this, instead of killing mosquitos to extinction. Ecosystems dependent on the pesky flying insects are in peril with this form of eradication.

Jan. 27 2015 12:37 AM
Oscar Rosseau

All I can think of when I see a mosquito is to kill it. But, after hearing this podcast, I have to agree that it can't be a good idea to kill every mosquito out there. Since we can't be absolutely sure what will happen, it sounds like a pretty bad idea. It also brings up the question whether it is ethically okay to eradicate a species.

Jan. 26 2015 08:37 PM
Daniel from California exiled in Florida from United States

I listened to this podcast when it came out and was so excited. I love genetics stories. Being in Florida I immediately thought to myself,"I wish this program would come to Florida with its triumphant death march". Well, it is now the end of month one in the fifteen and it looks like the green light is imminent. Hooray!

I'd also like to point out to some of the previous commentators that the extermination is *self limiting*.

Oh happy day.

Jan. 26 2015 07:45 PM
Daithi Brasil from Brasil

Is there a transcript for this podcast? It would be very helpful, thanks.

Jan. 21 2015 05:43 PM
Agatha M. Silverstein

This NPR was so informative because it taught me a ton about mosquitoes. The mosquito factory fascinated me most; it is an incredibly clever plan to kill mosquitoes. However, the question about whether or not to completely eradicate mosquitoes must be deeply considered. I hate to think that the innocent victims of mosquito-carrying diseases are just casualties in the war against overpopulation, but it may be true. Mosquitoes have played a vital role in population control and the purpose of their existence may be far beyond being pesky and destructive. Regardless of their role, I agree with the suggestion that mosquitoes should be killed in areas where their diseases spread most. We have little need for their extinction here in the States, but in Africa, Brazil, India, etc. they should utilize these larvae-killing mosquitoes.

Jan. 19 2015 07:42 PM
Catniss B. Sinclair

Mosquitoes have to be the most annoying pests out there. Most people wouldn't give a second thought about killing one of them but even though I personally hate them, I am scared to see what would happen if they weren't around. I feel like it would upset the balance of things in nature. It sounds horrible but it seems like a natural form of crowd control by transferring diseases around the population. I personally experienced this first hand because when I was nine I was bit by a mosquito and now have a painful disease for the rest of my life. I feel we need to come up with a huge pros and cons list on whether we should solve the problem of mosquitoes, or let them continue to live.

Jan. 12 2015 11:15 PM
Gandalf G. Bond from Florida

Its kinda funny how we usually just brush off mosquitoes as no more than annoying little pests even though they cause so many deaths. I have wondered how the world would be affected if the mosquito population was to suddenly disappear from the planet. Humans would no longer be killed by diseases spread by mosquito bites, but who knows what affect it would have on the food chain.

Jan. 12 2015 07:44 PM
Elinor L. Rousseau from United States

The idea and creation of mosquitoes that basically self destruct is quite clever. The world wide use of these in developing countries would decrease most mosquito transferred diseases, allowing for overall economic and health gain in these places. With out viruses like malaria, populations would stabilize and health aids can be directed to other causes like hunger. But the extermination of an entire species could possibly cause more harm then done. We could see a rise in a chemically resistant zombie mosquito or the competition like said could take over and we would have to go through this cycle all over again. I'm sure most people on this planet despises mosquitoes, we can kill the population there fore killing the transmitted diseases or we can see a rise of an insect much worse.

Jan. 11 2015 02:39 PM
Victoria from Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Could you do a follow-up program? Can we contact the scientists who used the GM mosquitoes in Brazil? Most mosquitoes stay within a mile or two of their source. We don't have to wipe them all out, just where the diseases break out. Interesting how there used to be Malaria in the US, and now it's not an issue. I moved to Cambodia a couple of weeks ago. I was getting vaccinated for JE and talking to the local doctor. Maybe he's cynical, or realistic, but he says there's no vaccination for dengue, because it's not a problem for the rich nations. Yes, mosquitoes have kept the human population in check over the centuries, but if your children were here, with mine, you'd want to kill every. single. mosquito. on. the. planet.
Please please, if you have contact still with the scientists that are experimenting with these GM mosquitoes, ask them to test them in Phnom Penh next.

Dec. 15 2014 09:57 AM
Andreea Popa from United States

All I am saying is, as far as species that could be completely eradicated with no detrimental effects on the ecosystem...humans.

Nov. 28 2014 02:17 PM
Ayn A Tennyson from Oviedo FL

Mosquitos should be no longer existent. They are not only a nuisance but can cause serious illness. They are not like other bugs who eat smaller pests. Mosquitos live off of blood, which is super unhealthy for humans and animals. If somebody is allergic to them, they can have serious reactions that can lead to death. They carry diseases that can be passed to humans and eventually humans will transmit the disease to eachother. All in all, mosquitos do no good to the human race and the world would be better without them.

Nov. 10 2014 10:59 PM
Upton C. Gatsby from Florida

Personally, I HATE mosquitos. I believe that they should be eradicated from this planet. They tried to make them seem not horrible by saying that the mommy mosquitos are just sucking blood to feed their babies. But I personally wish all their babies would die in a fire. Mosquitos are annoying and they can spread disease and kill people. They have single handedly killed more humans than anything else in the history of the human race. If I were in charge, my first order would be to kill these annoying little parasites, and I believe that ninety nine percent of people would agree with me that they would not be missed.

Nov. 10 2014 10:47 PM
Anna A. Dickinson from Florida

like that the podcast opened with a firsthand account of a personal struggle with mosquitoes. It really showed how annoying they can be- from the nets, to the constant biting. The information throughout the podcast was very fascinating- the mosquitoes have necessary motives for biting, but they have also brought immense, incomprehensible destruction to the human race. It's definitely a controversy over whether they should be eradicated. I believe that they probably should only be killed in population hubs.

Nov. 09 2014 05:19 PM
Anna B. Silverstien

What would happen to an ecosystem without mosquitoes is unpredictable, and I agree it is not a good idea to eradicate them everywhere. However, for malaria ridden cities in sub-Saharan Africa and India, the GM mosquitoes would be a viable way to save a lot of human lives. The fact that they have already been used, and have been so effective, is amazing in itself. Mosquitoes destroying half of the human population until now is a very strong incentive to limit their abundance.

Nov. 09 2014 04:55 PM
Lorelei C. Whitman

One half of all human deaths are caused by malaria since the stone age. This number really impacts me, coming from a place where I do not have to worry about mosquitoes giving me a deadly illness. The pesky insects evolve so fast that a chemical to try and combat them will only last from three to five years. Learning about these mosquito factories shocked me to know that our technology has advanced so far to genetically modify the bug to self destruct. They do have an effect on the ecosystem but I feel that if thousands of lives are saved, this solution will be worth it. The proposal made in this podcast was very intelligent but I can see a downfall. Many people in other countries who are suffering from this disease do not live in big areas and therefore will not be protected from the mosquitoes. I feel that the mosquito companies should test out their insects in a selected variety towns to see the outcome. From these results, they should then conclude if it helps the people or hurts our environment more. Then take a stand to where the insects should be placed in the world to help to most people and lessen the negative effects on our environment.

Nov. 08 2014 05:06 PM
Anna Chaucer

I agree with the suggestion at the end that we should only eliminate mosquitoes where people are living. That way, the mosquitoes can still play their role in the ecosystem and not bother or spread disease to people. Also, to eradicate mosquitoe-borne diseases, we need to eliminate the pathogen itself as well as its vector.Then we won't have to worry about the mosquitoe population at all, because there will be no pathogens for them[ to carry in the first place.

Nov. 08 2014 03:19 PM
Gertrude G. Goethe from me handy dandy computer desk

As a child, mosquito's would drink my blood like they were sipping a fine red wine, and I absolutely couldn't stand them. But as I've matured and grown up over the years, it's been much easier to understand my feelings towards these little rascals. They've remained as unchanged as the stars in the sky. It takes me no more than a nanosecond to express my fire-fueled hatred for these nasty, spindly creatures of prey. The only positive outcome (though rather melancholy) of keeping mosquito's on the earth is their uncanny ability to keep the human population under control. Let's face it, we're reproducing like rabbits, and somebody has to play the villain card (Though please don't think that I undervalue human life, any death is still a terrible loss.)

Nov. 03 2014 10:39 PM
Emily Marte from United States

This podcast was very interesting. I have always thought that you can never kill off any species because they have a special place in the food web. But I guess I was wrong, because it IS possible to kill off a species. I think the way they created the method of killing off the mosquitoes was very original and smart. It obviously worked, so I cannot imagine how much of a difference it will make if those mutated mosquitoes were released to the entire world. Also, killing off the mosquitoes can affect the world in an extremely positive way. Malaria kills so many people annually and if the mosquitoes were gone, these tragic deaths wouldn't happen.

Oct. 28 2014 05:23 AM
Aldous T. Chrincton

At one point you mention that an expert stated that one half of malaria case were due to mosquitoes. Who is this expert? are they reliable?

Oct. 27 2014 10:58 PM
Anna Morrison from Florida, USA

This is a very interesting concept. I have also always had a very complicated relationship with mosquitoes. I am allergic to mosquitoes and get very swollen, itchy bites when mosquitoes bite me. I have always wondered why we have never tried to eradicate mosquitoes, because they cause so many diseases and all. After listening to this podcast, however, it brings up a great debate as to whether or not we should annihilate them, since they are still living creatures. Additionally, I wasn't aware just how fertile and evolving these insects really are. This whole concept is very interesting and thought-provoking.

Oct. 27 2014 07:30 PM
Kafkha K. Catniss from Mars, Milky way galaxy

Honestly, while I may sound harsh, I would not feel bad if we needed to eliminate the entire species. I do see the negatives and positives to keeping them, overall, the most logical solution to me would be to kill them all.
Mosquitoes were the reason the black plague began because of the transfer of blood to the sewer rats which in turn gave it to the people. Yes, this does regulate the population, but I don't believe that the people who died would have wanted that reason for death: "to regulate the population." It is an unfair cruelty to be hurt by a small insect which you cannot control and is very hard to get away from. It is a disadvantage for people in lower class parts of the world because they have even less of a chance to defend themselves.

Oct. 20 2014 11:29 PM

As I live in Florida, mosquitos are one of the most annoying species that I come in contact with. They do not cause many disease only pain, so sometimes getting rid of mosquitos would be quite nice. However I feel that killing an entire species would never be a good idea no matter if they have no affect on life around them. As the RadioLab said they are known for killing over one half of the humans since the stone age, so they help keep the population of us down, which is beneficial since we are starting to over populate many areas. I also believe that killing an entire species of mosquitos is not awful but is a sort of gate way to the killing of larger, more influential organisms either because we believe at the time that they are not important, or get caught up in the immense amount of power put in our hands to completely wipe out a species.

Oct. 20 2014 06:00 PM
Catniss J. Moore

I had no clue that there were that many deaths caused by insects! Though mosquitoes might seem vicious, they aren't trying to be "mean" and hurt you. They are doing it to help and protect themselves. Mosquitoes were created for some reason, though it might be unknown, they are here for a reason. That is why I believe I wouldn't wipe mosquitoes off the face of the earth.

Oct. 20 2014 05:29 PM

I think this podcast almost got to a deeper point, which is that any consideration about intentionally eliminating a species from the earth because it is a nuisance is inherently anthropocentric. The larger question is whether we should be thinking in terms of what matters for human convenience as opposed to what matters for the greater ecosystem as a whole. Do mosquitos have a purpose? The better question is do humans have a purpose? What gives us the right to decide the fate of an entire species? Maybe mosquitos have the same right to exist as everything else.

Oct. 08 2014 04:23 PM

In response to this statement: "They don't play a big role in the ecosystem." Has anyone considered the possibility that the mosquito's "environmental purpose" is to control human population? I propose that they have one of the biggest environmental impacts of any creature, simply because they are responsible for so many human deaths, and if you believe the statistic at the beginning of the podcast, that's about 50% of all human deaths since the stone age. How is that insignificant?

Oct. 08 2014 10:42 AM
Will from BC, Canada

I was one of the survivors of an equine encephalitis outbreak in the rural outskirts of Winnepeg, Manitoba in the mid-seventies; I still don't agree with eliminating these little critters (although I do understand where that sentiment comes from!) Not long after the outbreak, Winnipeg instigated a rigorous routine of spraying for mosquitoes and subsequently the dragonfly population all but disappeared. Mosquitoes play a very important role in the food web for other insects and indirectly for larger animals. I have to ask what their removal might mean to our bird and bat populations in that food chain. Surely it makes more sense to try to eliminate the disease in the mosquitoes by healing them of the vector that harms humans, as Prof. Anthony A. James is doing at the University of California, Irvine. What's interesting is that if like Sonia's family you believe in karma, by healing the mosquito the karma might work in our favour.
Prof. James' approach would replace the wild stock whereas Oxitec's lethal approach represents an ongoing cost to communities - the mosquito population will likely rebound at some point making the community dependent on Oxitec's technology. While Oxitec's approach will continue to generate business, Prof. James' approach is limited in this regard; maybe this is why we still don't see the latter being used widespread today...

Oct. 03 2014 11:02 PM

The factory produces Ades Aegypti mosquitoes alone. As the name implies they are from North Africa. In the Caribbean and many tropical regions, they are invasive and the carrier of Dengue fever. Eradication of these pests from the environment is 100% beneficial and will do nothing to harm the natural ecosystem. Great show generally - but the potential to wipe out all mosquito species and populations is greatly overstated. Remember - this technology requires breeding all the males and then releasing them into the environment. This can only be possible and effective in relatively populated areas.

Sep. 08 2014 05:20 PM
David from Bay Area, CA

Humans have overpopulated and have placed extreme stress on the environment and wildlife, sub-Saharan Africa just being one of those places. If we get rid of mosquito bore diseases we are getting rid of one of the few arrows in its quiver that nature has left to defend itself from the over-breeding greedy species that we are. Ask yourself, if malaria didn't exist then what shape would the planet be in right now? We are already at 7 billion.

Aug. 26 2014 07:02 PM
Jessica from Austin, TX

Many of these comments are standing up for the mosquitoes - which is pretty awesome.

The rest of you are running rampant with human narcissism. Humans kill over a trillion animals (mosquitoes included) annually. Good for them - getting a little payback. We've got plenty of genocide under our belts.

Come talk to me about the great injustice they're serving when you're all vegan. Not to mention people killing people, learn how to communicate effectively and between states and nations instead of blowing each other up.

Aug. 11 2014 04:10 PM
Judah from Seattle

Alaska is a fascinating example because the hordes of mosquitoes can turn the blood of caribou and other large mammals into bird food. The short summer wouldn't allow for enough plant food to occur fast enough to support such a huge insect population. Such a large population of mosquitoes supports a huge population of migratory birds.

Without their blood meals the females couldn't support so many eggs and their resulting larvae.

I was surprised to see one commentator say mosquitoes are like "potato chips." Do they mean 'packed with calories?' I can't imagine dozens of bat, bird and fish species specializing in eating mosquitoes if they aren't nutritious.

Jul. 24 2014 12:05 PM
Julie from Chicago

I cannot tell you how many times I have talked about this episode now that mosquitos are taking over my summer. Thanks for the great show and in my opinion, "kill 'em all and let God sort them out!"

Jul. 12 2014 09:27 AM

There is a big factual inaccuracy in this piece: slave traders brought mosquitoes to the Americas. So that means only for the last 450 - 500 years or so at the most have mosquitoes been on this side of the Atlantic. That also means that eliminating them means that an invasive species is gone...allowing the ecosystem to right itself a bit...

Jul. 09 2014 10:15 AM

Mosquitos are the potato chips of the ecosystem, they offer very little nutrition or sustenance to any predator. Not me, scientists, have concluded that it would take all of an hour for them to be replaced in the food web by some other bug. They offer nothing, they could die without consequence. Try to imagine life as a bat.. Flying around zipping back and forth to capture and eat 10 mosquitoes, not even close to the nutrition of one big fat moth... Argument over

May. 31 2014 09:52 PM
Ryan Head from Kara, Togo

I live in Togo, in West Africa. When a friend and I heard this podcast we got really excited! Everyone has been touched by malaria here. Friends, co-workers, ourselves, family members. A friend lost a child to cerebral malaria. Is there any way we could get connected with the company and work together to save lives here in Togo, and sub-saharan Africa? I'd love to know how to do more! We're already here and want to help.

May. 17 2014 05:06 AM
Bilgin Ozkan

Completely off topic and probably too late to the game, but does anybody know what the music is that is playing at about 19 minutes in? That is one sweet guitar melody and I'd love to find out.

May. 14 2014 10:00 PM

Excellent episode. Very Radiolab-like. Thing is, no matter how appealing a life without mosquitoes sounds like (especially for me as I do live in the tropics), the methodology outlined in this episode is frankly terrifying.. Genetically altering these insects and introducing them into the general population just sounds completely arrogant and dangerously short sighted.
I hate to use movie references to make a point but Jeff Goldblum's character (Dr. Ian Malcolm) in Jurassic Park used the perfect phrase to describe why this strategy is so worrisome, "Life finds a way". And you know what?, its true.. The adaptability of life collectively is beyond protestation. I'm no scientist but statistically speaking don't they think its possible that introducing a man made mutation into the general population might introduce variables or create potential opportunities for further mutation that they might not necessarily foresee. Especially if this technique becomes common practice.
This is obviously conjecture but what if just one of these larva (against all odds) actually survives and propagates its man made mutation. Who the heck knows the causal ripple effect this could create with every other creature this thing interacts with, including us..

I'm all for the idea of managing mosquitoes or even wiping them out completely in populated areas as was suggested.
But as Robert Krulwich so eloquently put it, "If you're going to destroy the only obligation you have to yourself is to know what your killing"
or in this case, mutating..

Good Job Radiolab..

May. 12 2014 10:12 PM
Emily from France

One point not raised during this show is that there are many, many species of mosquito (several thousand spread over 40 odd genera), of which only a portion spread diseases. So when we talk about eradicating diseases using this method, we will not be ridding the world of all mosquitoes, just select species which transmit a disease like malaria or dengue fever. The project in Brazil focuses on one species, Aedes Aegypti. While I entirely agree that scientists and organizations should consider the ecosystem effects of eradicating a species, let’s not blow the scope of this one project out of proportion. Personally, if we are going to try to control or even eradicate a species, I’d rather we use targeted approaches rather than indiscriminate pesticides.

May. 10 2014 10:44 AM
Chaya Hoffman from Pennsylvania

My grandfather had malaria during the Holocaust. What saved him was a friend recognizing him dying on the street and taking him to work at a butter factory. He was too weak to work until he had a drink of butter melted in hot water, and he claims he was immediately healed and could lift more butter than any of his co-workers.

May. 08 2014 08:58 PM

Something has to thin the human herd.

Apr. 30 2014 08:11 AM
Random Commentor

Coming from a tropical island, I can see how mosquitoes could be considered a pest. They are very bothersome and propagate many diseases. Personally, I wouldn't eliminate them completely though. I am sure the mosquito is part of the diet of many animals and can also be used in the lab since it has such a fast rate of birth. It allows scientist to view the changes in specific genes across generations. I would look for a way to decrease the population without decimating it. There is no need for the extinction lf another specie, however annoying it is.

Apr. 25 2014 10:58 PM
Amanda from USA

This is a great story, and one I'd love to use to teach about GMOs and infectious diseases with my high school science students. However, as a biochemist, I cannot help but be a bit troubled when you talk about the GMO mosquito gene glowing red (9m30s), as DNA is not going to glow red. According to Hayden Parry's (Oxitec) own website, the red marker is a protein, not a gene... the gene (DNA) encodes for the red fluorescent (glowing) protein, but the DNA itself is not red. This is a common misconception (e.g. that DNA is red), which I think should be corrected; it violates the basic tenant of molecular biology (central dogma: DNA-> RNA-> protein).

Apr. 24 2014 01:12 PM
kasin suphapathom from DMSC , THAILAND


Apr. 24 2014 10:24 AM

Adding to the comment below, think of the food chain. If the mosquito is at the bottom of the food chain, it is the support. However, if you remove it, the whole chain will collapse and we will all be extinct. Think of it as Jenga. If you remove the bottom piece, the whole tower collapses. Also, when we fog, it kills plants, animals, and it also could kill humans. Now next time you see a mosquito, don't kill it. Either remove yourselves from the situation, or ignore it. And also, don't use mosquito killer. Use repellant or netting. You can also wear long sleeve shirts and pants that go to your knee caps. Thx!

Apr. 23 2014 02:46 AM

Mosquitoes actually play a big part in our ecosystem, probably as much as we do. If we wipe out mosquitoes, there will be no food for mosquito fish, not as much plants, and we will not be living in the world we live in now. Sure, they are pesky, they bite, and they kill, but they still serve a purpose. And since they've been around so long, we,and our ecosystem, have adapted to having then around. If we kill them, it won't be the same. And think of this: if mosquitoes didn't have a purpose, why did the world make them?

Apr. 23 2014 02:24 AM
Greg from Tirana

At the risk of sounding religious, there is a reason and a purpose for God's created order. While mosquitoes are indeed a nuisance and a scourge to society, I am not convinced that eradicating them would be the right thing to do. They likely serve a greater purpose than what we are aware of... whatever that may be. Eradicating mosquitoes would disrupt the cycle of life and perhaps the ecosystem in which we live.

My humble two cents.

Apr. 22 2014 05:30 PM

California is a large state. Abundance of mosquitoes in most of it.

Apr. 22 2014 03:45 PM

This mosquito factory is nothing short of genius. They have made the local decimation of the mosquito population possible. Although David does point out, we cant have any idea what might happen if we eradicate all mosquitoes, it would be possible to release these males with the self-destructive genes into cities, and wipe out mosquito in urban populations, while leaving forests untouched.

Apr. 18 2014 11:34 PM

Even though killing mosquitos will be beneficial to humans, becuase they won't spread malaria and they won't leave us itching for a week, they are actually important to our environment. After all, wouldn't there be a reason to why they are here in the first place? Yes, they ruin our picnics in the summer by buzzing around and giving us bites, but I've learned that it is actually for their young. I also learned that many rain forests have been saved from being turned into villages because they are noisy and annoying. Even though they are small and annoying, they are probably a food source for some animal, so killing them all will not do that animal any justice. I don't think we should get rid of mosquitos, and just improve ways to keep them away

Apr. 18 2014 10:16 PM

Mosquitoes are a nuisance and get on my nerves as well as everyone else's. They also transmit certain diseases such as malaria but the idea to kill an entire species would prove to be disastrous. It would wipe out an entire part of the food chain, and have and lead to a chain of events that could be catastrophic. As much as I hate them and everyone else does, the species cannot be wiped out.

Apr. 18 2014 08:09 PM
Louise from Sydney, Australia

I love this episode!
As a person that has suffered from the allure of mosquito's "loving" my body.
Please please PLEASE come to Sydney! Sydney is festering in mosquito's and idle water!

Apr. 17 2014 02:59 AM
Big Ben

To kill of an entire species would cause a huge chain reaction in any ecosystem inevitably destroying a food web. Mosquito's even though they have no purpose in our cities or towns they do play a part in their natural habitat. They are food for their predators and if you take away the bottom of the food chain the risk of the predator going hungry which destroys the whole ecosystem.

Apr. 16 2014 04:13 PM

There are some very odd arguments here.
One is that its ok to let mosquitoes kill men, women and children - because that's just their nature. Can't we all just get along?
Another is that since we can not predict the side-effects (unintended consequences) of our eradication of a couple of species of mosquitoes, that we should refrain from acting. The same could be said for ANY action; that it MIGHT have bad side-effects that no one would choose. (As if there is ANY action which doesn't have BOTH good and bad side-effects).
The last is that as long as I don't know about the baby that will die, we should worry more about blueberries.
This stuff is high-school level philosophy. I doubt if anyone has anything original to say about it. I certainly don't.

Apr. 16 2014 12:43 PM

This npr cast did a good job at coming from both sides of the discussion. I think that since we are able to eliminate the species if it did detrimental harm to Alaska or the rain forest then we could just grow another population in the lab and release them.

Apr. 15 2014 08:03 PM from Minneapolis, MN

Some people seem to think that malaria is but a small price for having the mosquito around. Such people inevitably live in areas that are free of malaria. It's very easy to sentence someone else to a death you do not face yourself. When people fighting malaria are called "biased", we've really lost perspective. Is the pro-malaria position really worth consideration?

Apr. 14 2014 08:49 AM
Brent from Seoul, Korea

I wonder if anyone here has heard another of my favorite podcasts on a similar topic. Please listen to Russ Roberts' EconTalk as he talked with Moises Velasquez-Manoff on mosquitos, the parasite malaria and a new hypothesis on its effects on autoimmune disease. It was a fascinating talk and one which I hope Radiolab will reflect on and update its listeners about. The talk highlights the potential value of mosquitos in that as they spread one deadly disease the POSSIBLY help prevent other worse ones. The link is below and they begin discussing this at around 25:00 into the show. Enjoy!

Apr. 14 2014 04:58 AM

It is always a mistake to think we can kill an entire species just for our pleasure and it will not be missed. Solving for harmony is always the answer to every problem for all members of planet Earth. In Hawaii, they've tried to man-handle every ecological problem and each time it creates a MUCH BIGGER PROBLEM.

Fyi, as a child growing up in the deep south, I was told that taking b-vitaminsrepels mosquito's because they don't like the smell or taste - it seemed to work for me! I was never bothered but my sister, who for some reason did not take the extra b, was covered in welts all summer. Would be interesting to see if it worked for the people in Alaska and India.

Apr. 14 2014 01:02 AM
TherealMarcos from OVIEDER

Mosquitos are one of the only animals that has been looked into eradicating them. They will literally not affect any other part of the ecosystem if they are killed off except happier animals and humans. As a person that for some reason attracts mosquitos are the bane of my existence so I have something in common with a Hawaiian bird. No one in the world actually cares for mosquitos since they are such jerks they literally steal what makes our bodies work. Not to mention they transmit diseases like the little parasites they are.

Apr. 14 2014 12:48 AM
Pauline from California

Wow, I'm blown away! Since mosquitoes were introduced to Hawaii by western sailors, the diseases they carry have driving several native Hawaiian birds extinct. Eradicating mosquitoes in Hawaii would prevent several more imminent extinctions, and put several conservation biologists happily out of their jobs. What an incredible opportunity.
As for causing man-made extinctions, it's not something to do lightly. But humanity causes extinctions every day through inaction; wouldn't it be responsible to prevent others through action?

Apr. 13 2014 11:23 AM
Daniel from Montreal

This is why we should listen to experts and not radio talk show hosts. When ideas like interspecies competition and food webs are surprising to you, you probably shouldn't be broadcasting your opinion on ecological policy to thousands of people.

Apr. 12 2014 08:04 PM


Apr. 11 2014 11:13 PM

I'm shocked to hear that so many deaths have been caused by mosquitoes. Half of the deaths of humans is insane. Although I had not realized that the problem was so bad, I do not think the insect should be killed off. Without mosquitoes, the environment would most likely unbalance.

Apr. 11 2014 10:20 PM

Never thought I would feel sympathy for Mosquitos but after listening to this podcast I did. The fact that the Mosquitos NEED to risk their lives just so they can feed their babies is horrible and I never looked at it that way til now. I don't believe however that we should alter them, nor get rid of them entirely as pesky and annoying as they are.

Apr. 11 2014 07:30 AM

For a second I felt bad for killing the "mommy mosquito's" until Sonia shah said that half of deaths since the cold age has been from malaria..Never mind. I don't have a problem killing off this vector of disease and itching, other than an occasional guilt feeling as I squash the vampire off my skin. Decrease the mosquito population by 96%?! Please come to Florida!

Apr. 11 2014 05:09 AM
Vladimir from Soviet Russia

It seems that eradicating a species that poses an annoyance/threat/population check to humans is a little self-centered and arrogant. It may be that the purpose of the mosquito is to keep the human population in check. Killing them off could have drastic effects to the biome. Personally I feel that we shouldn't extinct them because they do have a specific purpose when it comes to the food chain and biomes.

Apr. 10 2014 11:27 PM

Although I do not like Mosquitos one bit, I did not realize how much they actually do help our environment. I didn't know that the typical mosquito only lives about a week and I wasn't aware of how quickly they reproduced. I was surprised to find out that people actually breed Mosquitos. Even though they are an important part of our environment, they cause more harm then good. They spread diseases and have killed many people, and are just plain annoying.

Apr. 10 2014 10:37 PM

I am all for wiping out mosquitoes. One fact that really blew my mind was that they have killed more people than cancer has, even more than war and heart disease. If someone still wants to keep these annoying pests around, they’ve got to have lost their mind. Sure, it is a lovely, heartwarming fact that the nice little mosquito mommies risk their lives scavenging for food for their cute, fuzzy demon-spawn that will exponentially increase and spread their disastrous disease, killing even more innocent people in third world countries. These little jerks will pop out newborns so fast that the skies will be dark with creepy crawlies and our bodies covered in itching, burning, gigantic welts. I propose we break out the fly swatters and switch our perfumes for bug repellent in an attempt to keep the little terrors at bay and hopefully, there might be a world that will never have to hear that incessant buzzing.

Apr. 10 2014 10:30 PM

This is an awesome counter-intuitive take on mosquitoes. Personally, I only see them as irritants, as I am allergic to their bites and swell up much more than normal, but the effect they have had on their ecosystems seems to counter that--they have saved places like rain forests from becoming settled. However, it is important to note that they do spread serious diseases like malaria. Perhaps we could genetically modify them so that they nullify or kill this pathogen so they do not continue its spread but they still serve their purpose.

Apr. 10 2014 09:49 PM

My view on mosquitoes has completely changed after hearing this podcast. I thought that getting rid of them would not be a big deal but I realize now that it is. Many people find their noise and bite to be annoying. But both of those problems actually serve a purpose. I did not know that they only bite to get the protein from blood to nourish their young. The fact that they are helping their young makes the tiny bite not seem as bad. They also play quite an important role in our ecosystem. Their annoyance has helped save rain forest from becoming settlements, cities, and farmlands. Without these creatures the rain forest would have been destroyed a long time ago. Even though they spread malaria they actually have been a huge help to the world.

Apr. 10 2014 08:40 PM

This podcast has changed my opinions about mosquitos. Before, I thought of mosquitos as pesky, useless creatures. After listening, I now know that mosquitos have a purpose on earth. Yes the mosquitos do spread Malaria which is deadly but the mosquitos save the land. They prevent rain forests from being destroyed from humans and being replaced with farms and towns. Yes the bites of mosquitos are obnoxious and itchy but the mosquitos don't bite for food or fun. They bite to feed their young. If we were to expose of all of the mosquitos, the effects that would have on the earth is unknown.

Apr. 10 2014 06:38 PM

From this podcast, I learned a lot of information about mosquitoes. I really only thought that mosquitoes were just pests that wanted to annoy us, but really, they take the risk of landing on us to suck our blood to get the protein for their young. Mosquitoes actually suck our blood for a purpose. Now the factory full of mosquitoes doesn't sound like a good idea because they genetically altered their system. They put a new gene in their system that didn't activate until they laid their eggs. This definitely wasn't a good idea because when the eggs hatched, they acted as normal mosquitoes but they left us humans with malaria! I agree that mosquitoes have a purpose in this environment for their own living ability but I don't think that mosquitoes should be genetically altered in other countries and give people malaria. Overall, I wouldn't want to get rid of mosquitoes all together.

Apr. 10 2014 05:50 PM

Most people see mosquitoes as pest but no one every thinks about the role they play in the environment. This podcast changed my view on mosquitoes and has opened my eyes to a compromise between humans and mosquitoes. I was aware that only females bite but I did not realize they risk their lives to gather blood to use as protein for their young.Even though mosquitoes have been one of the biggest enemies to mankind they have kept humans away from major forest regions and allowed these areas to be persevered. If it were not for the mosquitoes then those areas would have already been cleared for settlements and farmland.This new genetically modified mosquito will play an important role in keeping a boundary with mosquitoes.The effects of eliminating the mosquito are still unknown but for now the world should try to live a long side mosquitoes because we both share this planet.

Apr. 09 2014 08:22 PM
Alicia from Oregon State University

Although this podcast wasn't specifically focused on pesticides, they are commonly used for mosquito control. If anybody has any questions about pesticides used for mosquitoes (or any other pest), especially questions regarding potential health effects from them, safety, environmental fate, or chemical questions - you should consider calling the National Pesticide Information Center 1-800-858-PEST (7378), or check out their website

Apr. 06 2014 01:41 PM
Mary from Brainerd, MN

Who isn't annoyed my mosquitoes? Still, David Quammen had a point but Radiolab wasn't having it. Human population on the planet has gone from 300 million to 7 billion in the last 2000 years, and has more than doubled just since 1960! Notice attending crises over resources, environmental sustainability, climate, and disappearance of other species. We humans are a scourge. If mosquitoes keep us out of any one habitat, more power to 'em.

Apr. 05 2014 10:27 PM
Andy from Denver

It seems that eradicating a species that poses an annoyance/threat/population check to humans is a little self-centered and arrogant. It may be that the purpose of the mosquito is to keep the human population in check. Perhaps more attention should be given to the population that poses an annoyance/threat/population check to all species and the planet, i.e. humans.

Apr. 05 2014 06:31 PM

Wiping out mosquitos? sounds good to me. Cant understand why we would want to keep a species around that can do some much harm to humans. If this were a possible solution to keeping malaria at a low then this should be something that could be explored. Granted eliminating the entire species of mosquitos would be close to impossible, it would be very beneficial. This would have a beneficial impact on the economy in my mind as well.

Apr. 04 2014 11:04 PM

Mosquitos are such a under noticed, and such a repeat offender of death that dealing with this problem is very possible in the near future. If these mosquitos are killing more then the worlds deadliest killer which is cancer then there is a problem. The fact that we have decided to try and protect these insects is unrealistic. I mean these insects do have a very strong role in the eco-system, but this problem must be handled with.

Apr. 04 2014 07:39 PM

A slender long-legged fly has caused the tragic deaths of 1/2 of humans since the Stone Age. The fact that one bite from the bloodsucking female can transmit diseases,such as malaria, is appalling. The female may use the protein from our blood to nourish her young, but she's killing the population of humans ever so slowly. The mosquitoes have killed more people than heart disease and cancer. This should be a wakeup call for us to do something about the vast population of mosquitoes.

Apr. 04 2014 06:47 PM

The fact mosquitoes have killed more people than cancer should be a trigger to invest in studies to find a way to control the population or better repellents. It's also very interesting that there are breeding of mosquitoes happening. Obviously, the breeding of them need to stop,but the natural aspect needs to keep benefiting the ecosystem but we must find a way to stop them from being such an annoying pest and deadly one.

Apr. 04 2014 04:15 PM

I found it quite interesting that people actually breed mosquitoes. The bacteria they are using to control these populations, which destroy so many lives. Although it is not very smart to kill all of the insects because ecologically it will damage our world, the idea of using technology to change these little buggers to our advantage is brilliant

Apr. 04 2014 02:33 PM

I find it interesting how the factory in Brazil is redesigning the mosquito in order to solve the problem of the spread of disease. I personally don't think it would be a good idea to completely eradicate the mosquito because of the whole idea of how it would effect other creatures in the ecosystem. Some other species has a connection with the mosquito whether its because the mosquito is a part of their diet, or the mosquito (like they said) is competing with another species. Eliminating the Mosquito would effect this other creature and could cause a chain reaction that could have a negative impact on our ecosystem, or it could do absolutely nothing. The problem with this is we cannot predict what the outcome could be due to the complicity of our ecosystem.
While listening to this I couldn't help but make a connection with the movie "Lilo and Stich" where Earth is protected due to the "importance" of the mosquito population.

Apr. 03 2014 10:25 PM

Mosquitoes have killed more people than cancer, war and heart disease. We need to get rid of them. I don't see what they are doing to help our environment, or what big role they play in our environment. Nobody would admit that mosquitoes are helpful to our environment. It's better to eradicate the mosquito population because it would cause less disease and deaths in our society. Mosquitoes are annoying, they bite and kill people. There is no point in that. We need to eradicate this pointless species of insects.

Apr. 03 2014 09:19 PM

As far as the overall general topic, when it comes down to the signficance of life of this little creature weighed against the life of a human being, it definitely sways in favor of the human. If this little buzz machine can be the cause of 1/2 of human deaths, some actions' got to be taken if possible to remove the problem at hand. Yes it's true that one can point out those minor benefits of having these pests roam the streets with arguments such as the "ecosystem" or "the food chain" and such. However, though overpopulation is generally avoided and one could insist mosquitoes aid in keeping the general balance of mankind stable, these are still human lives being swept away by these demons. The whole genetic engineering of chemical gene to breed destruction shows that our scientists today are making progress in coming up with creative ways to deal with the issue, and hopefully there'll soon to be more added to our database in due time.

Apr. 03 2014 09:11 PM
Coose6 from Florida

I found this podcast to be insightful: malaria has killed 1/2 of all humans since the stone age. I didn't expect to learn what I did. Scientists have found a way to kill mosquitoes. This gives me hope for my future. I dislike this horrible creature and the fact that in 6 months, 96% of a town's population was eradicated. But the fact that they are also beneficial to our rain forests makes me want to keep them around. This podcast has opened my eyes and has slightly altered my opinion of the little pests.

Apr. 03 2014 06:40 PM
Alvaro Villa

As pointed out in Silent Spring, each action can have an unexpected consequence. We cannot infer or imagine that there is not going to be any kind of consequence. The use of harmless pesticides did not suppose a harm to human health or any other organisms' health besides the ones that aimed to kill. Then we found out about the robins of Silent Spring. We cannot act without thinking properly, because if we miss a single variable it could have disastrous consequences.

Apr. 02 2014 10:42 PM
Ben Zumeta

No mosquitos would lead to far fewer blueberries and other flowering plants, fewer fish, fewer bears and a whole lot else. Get rid of lumberjacks and we would have more of everything living! Oh, wait its not that simple.

Apr. 02 2014 01:34 AM

It's true, mosquitoes do pollinate bears and blueberries. OK not really, but aren't we flirting with unintended consequences here? Like you trick all the phone sanitizers onto a spaceship and send them off to some harmless planet, so they're out of your hair, but then everyone else is wiped out by a plague contracted from a dirty telephone.

Anyway, we don't have to kill them all. Malaria was once endemic in Florida, but we drained the swamps and used DDT keep the population down. This interrupted the life cycle of the disease. Now malaria is rare in the US. We should at least do as much for the children of Africa. The life of one child is worth more than the billions of mosquitoes we'd have to kill to make malaria rare in Africa.

Apr. 02 2014 12:57 AM

Mosquitos are pesky, full of parasites, and there are way too many. You shouldn't feel bad for helping to keep down the population. Many humans have been killed thanks to diseases passed through insects. It sounds as though it is impossible to wipe them out, and you shouldn't considering the good they do. It's not okay to completely manipulate nature. It doesn't help that the populations are being more genetically resistant to chemicals used to exterminate them. As they adapt the mosquitos grow stronger.

I also learned that people breed mosquitos in factories in Brazil. They added a mutated gene that the scientists can control. They later release the mosquitos into the wild, which reproduce, leaving the newborns with the new gene that scientists can turn off (killing them). They are definitely messing with nature and probably shouldn't be. There are always unforeseen consequences.

Apr. 01 2014 03:51 PM
Paul Dear

So many opinions, so few citations.

With regard to mosquitoes' roles in ecosystems - there are many, many species of mosquito, and only a handful are major carriers of human disease.

Apr. 01 2014 11:59 AM
Chuck from Utah

This story made my think of Herman Melville's famous quote; "for there is no folly of the beasts of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men".

Apr. 01 2014 12:09 AM
Ben Zumeta

I love radiolab, but I also love blueberries and bears, as neither would be as abundant without mosquitos, the primary pollenators of many purple, blue and white flowers in the Pacific NW (I am a park ranger there). So I was sorry to hear the tone of this story (especially early on), and that nobody brought up how humans exacerbate the mosquito-maleria problem with irrigation, road building, and other sources of stagnant water right around population centers that can be vectors for disease. I did like how it ended on Aldo Leopold's point that when you take apart a complex machine like an ecosystem, it's best to keep all the parts.

Mar. 31 2014 08:08 PM

To Echo:

Can you cite evidence to support your argument about the peanut allergy? Otherwise, I must take it only as opinion.

Seriously, while I agree with your argument to the effect that one should have scientific evidence in support of an argument, you cannot necessarily discard an argument on the lack of evidence. You discard an argument when it does not correlate to the evidence. Therefore, other authors' opinions regarding the environmental importance of mosquitos are valid hypothoses, worthy of consideration and testing to identify evidence to support or refute those hypothoses.

Mar. 31 2014 10:46 AM

You know, seeing as there are so many people around here eager to state that mosquitoes are vital to the environment, I am going to start by saying this. Do not make arguments without citing data, in this case websites and journals which directly detail your argument as to their importance. You may not like it, but from a scientific point of view, if you cannot cite your sources, your argument not only can be, but should be dismissed by all readers as irrelevant opinion, based on personal assumptions that may or may not be misleading or completely wrong. Cite your sources. I don't really care if we are talking about mosquitoes or tigers or the origins of life when creationists yammer on, when it comes to points of view regarding scientific facts, put up or shut up.

Second, if they can genetically modify the mosquitoes to die, they can genetically wire an allergy. In five or six generations, peanuts will no longer be edible by humans because more people with peanut allergy are surviving to reproduce, which will eventually lead to the majority of the population being allergic. Just spend some time figuring out a way to rewire them to be allergic to humans and you can have your mosquitoes without people having to die on their behalf.

Mar. 30 2014 07:56 PM

April... you should have completed the entire podcast they got to your point.

Mar. 29 2014 07:06 PM

I am so disgusted with this podcast. I am an avid radiolab listener, but I turned this on off half-way through. The hosts are speaking as though humans rule the earth and should therefore be allowed to decide that mosquitoes be eradicated. You no longer have my respect. What right do we have to think this way? Listen again to the language being used... humans do not have a right to decide what goes extinct and what does not. We cannot decide that one species is more important than another - this is not our Earth to own.

What mosquito biologist did you talk to? Someone trying to fight malaria? That's quite a biased group. I know that other mosquito biologists would be first to say that the mosquito larvae play a CRUCIAL role in pond/lake ecosystems. Just wait for the South American water bodies to fill with algae and crap.

What about talking about how beautiful mosquitoes actually are? Have the hosts or the woman who wrote the book ever looked at a mosquito under a microscope? These are extraordinary creatures... their wings look like artwork.

The real problem are these diseases, and very little has been done to try to fight the actual viruses. This podcast just perpetuated the problem.

Mar. 29 2014 04:17 PM

There was so much talk about what the mosquito's role in nature is and if the earth can do without them. But what about humans? Aren't we just as useless and more harmful? Maybe the value of Mosquitos is to keep down the human population.

Mar. 29 2014 12:28 PM
A.J. from St. Louis

Did anyone else get really itchy listening to this. Darn you the power of suggestion!

Mar. 28 2014 04:59 PM
Shani Hajbi from Israel

Just few days ago I was reading this song to my son. And then came your chapter :).
This is a kids song written by Natan Alterman in hebrew, (BTW, The Anopheles was marked as one of the "biggest enemies of the nation" as it caused many deaths swamps areas in Israel in the begging of the past century).

I am sorry if the translate is lame, I not a professional -

Why there are mosquitoes in the world?
Mosquitoes ,why do they exist?
Harassing and biting , sucking human blood
From the blood they are living and causing scratching.
Why do they even exist ?

Mosquitoes are for frogs
because their flesh is tasty for them
They are for frogs !

Why there are frogs in the world?
Frogs , why do they exist?
In the swamp they stand , from croaking they are hoarse
From mosquitoes exist and only cause deafness.
Why do they even exist ?

Frogs are for storks
Which swallows them while standing on one leg .
They are for storks !

Why there are storks in the world?
Storks ,why do they exist?
They are always migrating , corrupting the fields
they are even not so smart, only causing destruction
Why do they even exist ?

Storks , obviously , bring children
That will grow up to be nice people.
Storks bring children !

Why there are people in the world?
People ,why do they exist?
They mess with the worlds and make wars
Why do they even exist ?

People are for mosquitoes
Which live on people blood
People are for mosquitoes

So man, don’t be so arrogant
And don't ask too many questions
Any being here in the world has a reason to live
Please be nice to the mosquito that stands on your nose
One day, because of him, another child will be born

Mar. 28 2014 03:12 PM
Naked Guy

I don't get how this works: They make few genetically altered males, release them to the wild so that the copulate with females which then nest eggs that die before hatching. So how does that kill 96% of mosquitoes? I mean does that mean that females copulate with only those few males?

Mar. 28 2014 04:32 AM
Mike Scott from Boston

Can we order these things from Brazil? I am in the us.


Mar. 27 2014 08:13 PM
Joe from Minneapolis, MN

I'm happy to see Radio Lab is covering this important topic. Genetically modified insects present powerful opportunities to control insect-vectored diseases like malaria and dengue. However, it's difficult to overstate the knowledge gaps that exist surrounding the ecological effects of mosquitoes. We have little idea how these environments will change if mosquitoes are removed at a regional scale. To say that everything would be like California, as they joked about in the show, is silly and misleading. Toward the end of the show, they discuss the possibility of removing mosquitoes only from human inhabited areas. There are important socioeconomic problems that need to be addressed for this to work. Additionally, there is little reason to believe that mosquitoes wouldn't become resistant to GM technologies, like RIDL, just as has occurred repeatedly with insecticides. There are scientists researching these topics, but at present, technological development is outpacing our understanding of what these technologies might do if implemented broadly. That said, the cost to lives and well-being caused by insect-vectored diseases is a painful reality that must be addressed, and I'm happy to see more discussion surrounding this issue.

Mar. 27 2014 03:16 PM
Michael Perenich from St. Petersburg Florida

Apparently it's my "blood type", or I have"sweet blood" or a lack of B-vitamins, they are drawn me. Oddly enough the same is true for my daughter as well (same blood type). I live in Florida, I always ask my self "what's the worse thing that could happen? (if they were eradicated, or close to extinction)" We have them year-round here, they always find their way into my house, they torment and haunt me. I understand that winter is terrible up north, but at least you can get away from these pests. They are the bane of my existence.

Mar. 27 2014 11:50 AM

If you ever touch on mosquitos again in the future, or anything else parasitic in nature, be sure to give Dickson Despommier a ring! He is incredibly knowledgable on the subject and is very entertaining to hear speak. I listen to him regularly on the phenomenal podcast This Week in Parasitism. You may have interviewed him briefly once before along with Carl Zimmer if I remember correctly.

Mar. 27 2014 12:54 AM
Elise from Queensland, Australia

This episode is really interesting finding out what people think about mosquitoes on the other side of the world.
I do have something to add though. Sterilized/genetically modified mosquitoes are not the only option for mosquito control. I'm a mosquito entomologist in Queensland, Australia and we have the largest mosquito breeding facility of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
We have projects dealing with mosquito-borne viruses and have established a method to eliminate dengue from mosquitoes by using a naturally occuring bacteria called Wolbachia. Here's a link to the project.
Wolbachia has been used to stop the transmission of dengue virus to humans and they have now used this technique in several countries Columbia, Brazil, China, Indonesia, Vietnam and Australia.
This bacteria doesn't kill mosquitoes directly, it just stops the virus transmission of an infected mosquito to another human.
Hopefully, in time, this method would spread around the world and we'll eventually eliminate all virus-transmitting mosquitoes.

Mar. 26 2014 11:35 PM
Trevor from Texas

Mosquitos in America are not harmless, as is stated the episode. Mosquitos in America transmit several harmful pathogens to both people and animals such as West Nile Virus, Dengue, and Heartworm disease. Although the US is spared from most of the deadly mosquito vectored diseases (e.g., malaria, Rift Valley Fever, Chikungunya, etc.), our country has just about everything in place for these diseases to become endemic here. With the amount of international travel and trade that happens today, it is not unlikely that an infected person, animal, or mosquito will be brought to America and start and an outbreak of a deadly disease.

It seems that a targeted approach to kill mosquitos in urbanized areas might be effective in reducing the incidence of malaria. However, this approach would not be effective for reducing zoonotic diseases, or disease that are shared people animals and people. I'm glad David Quammen was on the show to share his prospective. Great episode overall!

Mar. 26 2014 11:31 PM

The diaereses they carry are a nessacry check on the human population. We are not as important to or own survival as a species as we think we are.

Mar. 26 2014 11:17 PM

It's funny that in the end my opinion was so settled that what I was really left with was the realization that if I killed the little sucker that bit me I was preventing the birth of 80,000 other little suckers.

I also remain unconvinced that this is free of unintended consequences and it is alarming to me that they are already using this in nature. It is interesting though that this crazy mutant gene, once passed along, self destructs so there's really no chance of the gene actually contaminating their genetics. But their life span is so short...clearly you can wipe out the entire population in hardly any time at all. It seems that if we're cautious, and use this sparingly we could save ourselves from diseases like malaria but then you're left with the question that no one is asking: If Malaria has been responsible for 1 out of every 2 deaths since the stone ages, who will kill us off if we wipe out the mosquitos? It seems cruel until you look at humans as a part of this ecosystem and this world. We destroy the planet, polluting, overfishing, over drilling, over producing, over foresting, and certainly over populating. I hardly wish a horrible disease on anyone, especially children but it's like I said, I remain unconvinced that there aren't unforeseen consequences.

Mar. 26 2014 10:12 PM

There are species on this Planet that depend on the mosquito...they may be a pest and spread some diseases but they're beneficial to the Ecology.

Mar. 26 2014 07:05 PM
bob m from wbur

this was such a very very good one!

Mar. 26 2014 05:14 PM

Wow, this is awesome. I love this piece. Precisely because of how much debate and discussion and controversy and conflict of ideas, beliefs, and values that it generates. But it does so almost out of nowhere because it's not one of those big ethical issues that's obvious and familiar to everyone, and so it catches us off guard, because at first it seems so easy and simple; and then it turns around and shakes up our worldview, challenges us in a way that we're not really prepared for, but don't realize we're not prepared for until the challenge suddenly shakes the ground we thought was stable beneath our feet. This is, I think, one of those issues that's actually a lot harder to deal with and answer than most people will realize and be willing to realize.
But still, this is the kind of stuff that needs to be on the table, needs to be discussed – the kind of stuff that are *the hard questions* that most people don't want to ask and don't want to face. So in that sense, excellent work, Radiolab.

[Just to give a bit of perspective of where I'm coming from: I used to teach philosophy to university students, and I always told my students that, regarding the material of the course, if they didn't get pissed off at some point, they were missing something, they weren't getting it.]

Mar. 26 2014 04:47 PM

I'll steal an idea from David Quammen in defending the mosquito: the mosquito, with a little help from malaria parasites, help keep the rain forests and ecologically diverse regions of the planet safe from the greatest force of destruction ever known…us.

Mar. 26 2014 03:07 PM
Craig from San Isidro, Ecuador

It's not just malaria, they also carry yellow fever and dengue! Kill 'em all and let mosquito god sort 'em out!

Mar. 26 2014 02:58 PM
Andrew O. Dugas from San Francisco

I can't believe this solution would be free of unintended consequences. DDT was touted to be such a solution, but that went very south indeed.

I don't understand why we are attacking the carrier instead of the parasite, which is the real problem. This seems misplaced, like destroying every car to eliminate car bombs. You still need the cars!

Why not fine-tune this genetic approach? If they can engineer a gene that causes all the larvae to self-destruct, why not code that gene to activate only in the presence of the parasite? In other words, the adult mosquito only self-destructs once the malaria-causing protozoa shows up in its system and before it can pass the parasite to a new victim.

We can preserve the mosquitoes and their ecological contributions while eliminating the malaria itself.

Mar. 26 2014 02:25 PM
Peter Herz from Studio City, CA

Fascinating report which elucidated the modern capacity of Man to genetically engineer the end of the species. However, I think it is highly unrealistic to eliminate mosquitos everywhere even if we wanted to, but just kill in human population centers so the disease issue is cut-off.

Mar. 26 2014 01:02 PM
Mike Watson

Then what of the dragonflies?

Mar. 26 2014 12:14 PM

So we have the ability to wipe out malaria but just haven't? Wow.

Mar. 26 2014 11:59 AM
MJC from Michigan

Some disease vectors are invasive species. They have since become a part of the diet of local fauna, but this wasn't the case in recent history. I see no problem with removing these arthropods. Most mosquitoes are not disease vectors, so I doubt removing targeted species will make a huge impact. Not as huge as human civilization itself.

In these conversations, I like to bring up the possibility of moving to Mars. Would you bring mosquitoes? I wouldn't. We naturally alter our environment to make it more comfortable. Mosquitoes are destined to go.

We actually have a choice this time in selecting a eukaryotic species to go extinct. Disease vectors have to go.

Mar. 26 2014 11:54 AM
Carmine Chaz

It makes me wonder about the prospect of wiping out things like bedbugs or human lice that, as far as I know, don't have much effect on ecosystems.

Mar. 26 2014 11:51 AM
Olivia from Portland, ME (Vacationland for bloodsucking pests)

In the event that mosquitoes do have a valuable ecological role, why don't the "Mosquito Factories" use their powers for genetic engineering to produce lady mosquitoes that can produce enough protein to support their eggs without needed to suck human (or any) blood? If there were a new, harmless breed of mosquito, they could continue to fulfill their role in the ecosystem, but also without being the nuisance we are accustomed to suffering.

Mar. 26 2014 11:44 AM

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