Wetenschap - 12 augustus 2011

Mosquitoes fly for the sake of science

How far does a mosquito fly? We don't know yet. Alterra will try to find the answer next week.

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An experiment will take place in the Veenkampen in the Binnenveld. Fresh water ecologist Piet Verdonschot will be there on Tuesday - if the weather permits - to launch a mosquito plaque. The experiment aims to give a definite answer to the basic questions about how far a mosquito flies and in which direction. Strange enough, no-one knows the answer yet. Verdonschot: 'Information in publications is based on Malaria research. That's research related to diseases and completely different from nuisance research. Moreover, different mosquitoes are involved.'
Protestors
Verdonschot is an expert in the area of mosquitoes and midges. The experiment in the Binnenveld is an assignment from DLG Drenthe. This interest in the flight radius of mosquitoes had not come out of the blue. Nature management workers and builders have all along been keen to know how far moist nature should be removed from housing areas, to take the sting out from antagonists and protestors.
Ready to sting
If circumstances are favourable, Verdonschot will release about 100,000 ready-to-sting bloodthirsty female mosquitoes. These are now caged up in something resembling a party tent which serves as a nursing room. Mosquito traps have been set up all around the cage in all directions of the wind. These traps will lure the female mosquitoes using carbon dioxide, the substance in human breath which attracts mosquitoes. The catch in the traps will reveal the flight behaviour of the mosquito.
Too cold
The artificial mosquito plaque should have been released this week. But the weather had been unfavourable. The cold had retarded the development of the mosquitoes. Moreover, the wind was too strong for mosquitoes to fly.

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