Wetenschap - 20 augustus 2011

More shutterbugs than mosquitoes

The much talked about Wageningen mosquito plaque has taken off. This scientific experiment has attracted a swarm of journalists.

bij_tenten_3.jpg
bij_tenten_3.jpg

Foto: .

The NOS was there. So too were Hart van Nederland, BNR, Volkskrant and a host of other press media. Even Associated Press is interested in the mosquito experiment which freshwater ecologist Piet Verdonschot will carry out in the Binnenveld.
The experiment will establish how far mosquitoes fly. Nuisance is the topic under study: how far should new water areas in nature be located away from housing estates.  Those living in Wageningen, rest assured: the test area is more than 1200 metres away from Noord-west, the nearest estate. Verdonschot is certain that the mosquitoes cannot make it that far.
Cannibalism
In any case, Verdonschot will not be setting that many mosquitoes free. The 300,000 eggs which were harvested have produced only 8,000 ready-to-sting female mosquitoes. The rest succumbed to the cold and wet weather of the past few weeks, or became victims in acts of cannibalism. The experiment can, however, still be carried out with success, says Verdonschot.
As luck would have it, an unexpected ally has come to his aid: nature itself. The ditch right next to the mosquito nursing room is suddenly chockfull with mosquitoes. Verdonschot estimates - after taking stock of the larvae - that there are as many mosquitoes in the ditch as there are in his nursing room. These reinforcement troops will also take part in the experiment. 
Follow-up
In the next few days, researchers will count the number of mosquitoes caught daily in the tens of traps set up in the area. The first results are expected by mid-week. Verdonschot will then also know whether his experiment is successful. A follow-up experiment has been scheduled to take place at the start of September.

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