Mosquito Education & the INZECTO Mosquito Trap Donation following Hurricane Ian
Dr. Phil Koehler, Professor Emeritus and co-inventor of the INZECTO Mosquito Trap discuss mosquito education and the recent donation from INZECTO of 100,000 mosquito traps to assist with the task of mosquito control following Hurricane Ian.
Multiple topics are covered including the origins and collaborative background between the University of Florida in Gainesville and INZECTO. INZECTO is a UF startup company, with the University of Florida owning patents on the technology for the INZECTO Mosquito Trap as well as the special coating technology used in the manufacturing of the traps.
With these Florida ties, INZECTO was inclined to help local Floridians deal with the exponential outbreak of mosquitos that followed this once-in-a-century hurricane. The traps were distributed via several different channels including the Master Gardner’s of Orange County and several Mosquito Control Districts impacted. The INZECTO Mosquito Trap donation was the equivalent of 2.3 million dollars in retail sales.
A primary question posed in the discussion is, “why would you want to ‘attract’ mosquitoes?” According to Dr. Koehler, the idea is to attract mosquitoes to something that will kill them. In addition, the INZECTO Mosquito Trap has the dual function of disrupting the mosquito’s breeding cycle.
The traps are designed to attract the female mosquito specifically. It is only the female mosquitos that seek out a blood meal, bites, and drink blood, which is how they carry and transmit disease. Male mosquitos have a shorter life span, are non-biting, and do not feed on blood. They are relatively harmless, feeding primarily on flower nectar.
The INZECTO Mosquito Traps are easy to set up and are simply activated by adding water. Female mosquitoes like to lay their eggs on the inner, wet walls of containers holding water, above the waterline, laying upwards of 100 eggs at a time.
Initially, the traps are attractive to mosquitoes because of their color. Mosquitoes prefer certain colors over others. Research has shown that mosquitoes favor the colors red and black. As the mosquito gets closer to the trap, they are further drawn to the odor of stagnant water emitting from the trap.
The smell released from the INZECTO Mosquito Trap is activated by the tea bag or sachet of organic material contained within the trap, which once combined with water makes the water stagnant and smelly. It also creates a perceived food source and indicates to the female mosquito that this environment will be a great place to lay her eggs ensuring that the emerging larvae will have something to feed on during development.
A third component of why the INZECTO Mosquito Trap is attractive to mosquitoes is the physical design of the trap. Mosquitoes like areas that are dark, and high in humidity with low airflow. The side ridges of the trap reduce the airflow within the trap. They also increase the surface area of the trap giving the mosquito more space to land.
The inside of the trap is coated with a polymer that contains two insecticides. The first is a well-known insecticide or adulticide called permethrin which kills adult mosquitoes. The second is a growth inhibitor named pyriproxyfen that kills any larvae that have hatched from the eggs and prevents them from developing into adult mosquitoes.
Dr. Baldwin explains in detail the biological life cycle of mosquitoes. Like many other insects, there are four stages to the development of the mosquito. Egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Summarized, eggs will be laid and hatch, and the subsequent larvae will feed on the stagnant water inside the trap. However, these larvae will never be able to survive the cocoon or pupal stage of development. The mosquito at this pupa stage is also called tumblers because they tumble through the water.
It’s not recommended that the trap contents be emptied, but if you did you would see the live larvae and you might be tempted to think that the trap isn’t working. But that would be thinking about it wrong, according to Dr. Koehler, as the mere presence of the larvae is an indication that the trap is indeed working and demonstrating that the female mosquito chose to reproduce inside the trap.
You don’t want the trap to go dry and you also don’t want to overfill the trap. The INZECTO Mosquito Trap was designed with an overflow spout to ensure that there is always room for the mosquito to land inside the trap. Another nice feature of the trap is that the insecticides are all contained in the interior of the trap so there never has to be any contact with the actives or killing agents.
The INZECTO mosquito traps can be placed on the ground or hung from a tree branch. The loop above the overflow spout can be used for hanging or securing with a zip tie, to a stake or fence post for example. The best location to place the traps is in a shaded area with low airflow. Mosquitoes do not like windy conditions. So, underneath bushes or next to your house where it would be protected from direct sunlight and the wind are optimal placement areas.
Another distinguishing characteristic of the INZECTO Mosquito Trap design is its side ridges. When the ridges are viewed from the inside of the trap, you see that they create a shelf or landing space for the female mosquito to lay her eggs. Additionally, the ridges on the interior of the trap were designed to have the perfect amount of texture or roughness to appeal to the mosquito. It has been shown that mosquitoes do not prefer to land on smooth surfaces.
An undergraduate student at UF led a research project to evaluate this facet of the traps’ design. Amorphous silica was added to the polymer to create a rougher interior surface ensuring just the right texture to appease the mosquitoes’ landing preferences.
Interestingly, non-container breeding mosquitoes are also attracted to the INZECTO Mosquito Trap. Mosquitoes in general do not like to fly constantly; they also like to rest. The rough ridges of the trap, the high humidity, and the low airflow provide optimal conditions for even non-container breeding mosquitoes to rest.
Research for the INZECTO Mosquito Trap was originally funded with grant money awarded from the Department of Defense to protect deployed soldiers when they are overseas in areas where they have mosquito-borne disease transmissions like Afghanistan and Iraq. The traps were designed to be easy to transport and to require minimal training to implement.
The traps are made from the same plastic as milk jugs. Half of the plastic used to make the trap is already recycled plastic. The traps are 100% recyclable. When the INZECTO traps are no longer in use, they can be recycled.
Many people falsely assume that the sachet or tea bag included inside of the traps contains pesticides. As previously mentioned, the pesticides are contained and embedded into the interior walls of the trap. In addition to the silica, an adulticide, and a larvicide are combined with the polymer and designed to slowly release into the water that is added to the trap. This time-released component allows the insecticides to wick out or slowly release over time making the trap effective for a longer period of time.
Following Hurricane Ian, Mosquito Control Districts across Florida were working tirelessly to knock back the outbreak of mosquitoes using spraying methods. The donation from INZECTO provided an additional layer of protection to their program. The traps assist with mosquitoes that are not in the air. The traps also help in between sprayings or when spraying is limited or not permitted at all. Sprays don’t always make it through trees and down to the ground either.
When considering the placement of the traps and how many, Dr. Koehler recommends considering the amount of shaded area there is around your home because this is where the mosquitoes will be hanging out. A minimum of two traps is recommended per yard because mosquitoes do not want to lay all their eggs in the same container.
The traps have been placed at the University of Florida specifically in areas where people gather. They have also been placed in the Field and Fork Gardens at UF. This is a great idea for the Master Gardeners who have gardens where spraying is a concern. The traps are perfect as there are no restrictions on the placement of traps and beneficial insects or pollinators are not attracted to or affected by the traps. They are neither attracted to the colors of the traps nor do they like to enter dark spaces.
Dr. Koehler recommends checking the water level in the traps once a month, especially if it’s dry outside and there have been minimal rainfall amounts. The traps do not need a lot of water to be effective, so in some instances, adding water might not be necessary beyond what is added when the trap is first deployed.
Dr. Koehler explains the mosquito outbreak following Hurricane Ian addressing specifically the unprecedented flood waters that accompanied the hurricane. During normal years, mosquitoes will lay their eggs above the water line and those can hatch when you have a severe flooding event. These eggs can survive for up to 5 years. “What we have now is five years of mosquito production coming out within a week and all at once,” according to Dr. Koehler.
The traps are registered in 23 countries globally including most European countries, Hong Kong, as well as several countries in the Caribbean. Making the traps available globally is an ongoing process and a primary goal of the INZECTO company.
Dr. Baldwin highlights the collaborative and global nature of the trap’s origins. Invented at the University of Florida to the production of traps in Poland, the trap is indeed a worldwide endeavor.
Dr. Baldwin goes on to encourage others already using the traps to pass on their knowledge to neighbors and others within their social groups about how to protect themselves against mosquitoes. “Taking what you have learned about mosquito biology and how the traps work, you can spread that knowledge to other people.”
The interest and demand for the donated INZECTO traps have been high according to Clarissa Chavez. People are clearly wanting to educate themselves on the proactive measures they can take to protect themselves and their families.