The parent company of Google has built a robot that can grow and release 1 million mosquitoes a week into environments in California.
The mosquitoes are male, so they won’t bite anyone, but they are also sterile so they can’t breed. The exercise is part of a mission to curb growth of disease by controlling populations of the insects. Killing as many as 800,000 people a year, mosquitoes are by far the deadliest animal on earth.
Verily, the health division of Alphabet, created the machine which breeds mosquitoes, selects the males and infects them with a bacteria called Wolbachia which prevents them from breeding. The bacteria is deemed harmless to humans and other animals.
Over the next 20 weeks, the plan is to release 20 million Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which can carry illnesses such as Zika, Yellow and Dengue fever.
Debug Fresno is a study in the summer of 2017, pending approval from state and federal regulators, to test a potential mosquito control method using sterile insect technique. The study would be conducted by Consolidated Mosquito Abatement District, MosquitoMate, and Verily, and this video is intended to inform residents of the possible activities of this study.
Verily, the life sciences arm of Google’s parent company Alphabet, will release about 20 million lab-made, bacteria-infected sterile mosquitoes upon Fresno, California.
Verily’s male mosquitoes were infected with the Wolbachia bacteria, which is harmless to humans, but when they mate with and infect their female counterparts, it makes their eggs unable to produce offspring.
Bonus, male mosquitoes don’t bite, so Fresno residents won’t have to worry about itching more than they usually would.
No word from the company on how much something like this will cost, but Linus Upson, an engineer on the team releasing the mosquitoes, told MIT Technology Review the company planned to do something similar in Australia next.
The male mosquitoes will be released over 20 weeks in two neighborhoods of about 300 acres each using an automated device, also built by Verily. Mosquito Mate’s earlier releases of modified mosquitoes were done by hand using plastic containers