Members of the Silkwood community gathered at the local Bowls Club last week, not to walk the greens but to meet the scientists who are leading the charge in the battle to stop the world’s deadliest animal in its tracks.
Scientists Dr Nigel Beebe of the CSIRO and University of Queensland in Brisbane and Dr Kyran Staunton and Prof Scott Ritchie of James Cook University in Cairns addressed an informal public meeting in Silkwood about their ongoing strategy and plans for a small study in the community, in their bid to reduce populations of the the Aedes aegypti mosquito – known locally as the dengue mosquito – by introducing sterile males into the population.
Originally from Africa, Far North Queensland is home to Australia’s biggest population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito and the female of the species transmits the dengue and Zika viruses.
In recent weeks Silkwood residents have been playing an important part in the research by hosting traps to monitor populations of mosquitoes (over 30 different species of mosquitoes have been identified on the Cassowary Coast) as part of the CSIRO’s monitoring research ahead of potential studies in Silkwood testing new tools to rear and release release thousands of male mosquitoes – it’s ok male mosquitoes don’t bite.
An earlier ‘Mark, Release Recapture’ (MRR) study in Innisfail East released over 3000 male mosquitoes marked with a dye. These were then recaptured through a network of over 70 traps set in resident’s backyards, all to see how far the mosquitoes fly, how quickly they mate and how long they live.
“The long-term goal of our research in Innisfail, planned for later this year, is to show that we can suppress and even remove the invasive Aedes aegypti mosquito from the urban landscape,” Dr Beebe said. “Understanding the behaviour of the male mosquito is key to achieving this goal.”
“Our field studies in Silkwood will allow us to test new tools to release male JCUSmosquitoes. In the long-term, if we can successfully rear and release enough sterile males to out-competer the wild males, it would mean that the Aedes aegypti population would quickly die-off in the community.”
If you live in Silkwood and have questions about the research project call 1800 403 083.