Texarkana, TX 95° View Live Radar Sun H 91° L 74° Mon H 91° L 74° Tue H 94° L 74° Weather Sponsored By:

New mosquito trap is smart enough to keep just the bad bugs

New mosquito trap is smart enough to keep just the bad bugs

February 17th, 2017 by Associated Press in National News

In this photo provided by Microsoft, Microsoft researcher Ethan Jackson sets up a trap for mosquitoes in Harris County, Texas in 2016. A new high-tech version trap is promising to catch the bloodsuckers while letting friendlier insects escape, and even record the exact weather conditions when different species emerge to bite.

Photo by Associated Press

WASHINGTON—A smart trap for mosquitoes? A new high-tech version is promising to catch the bloodsuckers while letting friendlier insects escape—and even record the exact weather conditions when different species emerge to bite.

Whether it really could improve public health is still to be determined. But when the robotic traps were pilot-tested around Houston last summer, they accurately captured particular mosquito species—those capable of spreading the Zika virus and certain other diseases—that health officials wanted to track, researchers reported Thursday.

The traps act like "a field biologist in real time that's making choices about the insects it wants to capture," said Microsoft lead researcher Ethan Jackson, who displayed a prototype trap at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

The traps are part of Microsoft's broader Project Premonition, aimed at learning how to spot early signs of outbreaks.

"It catches people's imagination," said University of Florida medical entomology professor Jonathan Day, who isn't involved with the project. "But whether it is actually a trap that will functionally improve surveillance, I think that remains to be seen."

Trapping is a key part of mosquito surveillance and control, important so health officials know where to spray or take other measures to fight mosquito-borne diseases. Trapping hasn't changed much in decades: Typically net traps are outfitted with mosquito-attracting bait and a fan, and suck in whatever insect gets close enough. Entomologists later sort the bugs for the ones they want.

Jackson's trap consists of 64 "smart cells," compartments outfitted with an infrared light beam. When an insect crosses the beam, its shadow changes the light intensity in a way that forms almost a fingerprint for that species, Jackson said.

Program the trap for the desired species—such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is the main Zika threat—and when one flies into a cell, its door snaps closed. In pilot testing in Harris County, Texas, last July and August, the trap was more than 90 percent accurate in identifying the insect buzzing through the door, Jackson said.

Harris County already is well known in public health for strong mosquito surveillance, and had been keeping a sharp eye out for Zika — fortunately finding none. But mosquito control director Mustapha Debboun called the high-tech trap promising, and is looking forward to larger scale testing this summer.

"If we are trying to collect the Zika virus mosquito, you can teach this trap to collect just that mosquito," he said.

When each mosquito is captured, sensors record the time, temperature, humidity and other factors, to show what environmental conditions have different species buzzing. That's information officials might use to schedule pesticide spraying.

The next step: Rapid genetic scans of the mosquitoes' blood check for harmful pathogens — and can tell what animal the mosquito had been biting, Jackson said. If that work pans out, he said the data may help predict emerging diseases.

But bringing Microsoft's tech know-how to mosquito control ultimately will depend on cost, cautioned Debboun, who spends about $350 for one of today's traps and says the new high-tech ones can't cost more.

While Jackson doesn't know a final price, he said he used low-cost microprocessors and other equipment to design the traps and plans to test if drones can place them in remote areas.

Today's traps already provide lots of useful information, Florida's Day noted. Some mosquito species are so plentiful that he can catch thousands in a single trap. Others, like Aedes aegypti, are much harder to find, and information about when it flies might be useful, he said.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Texarkana Gazette Comments Policy

The Texarkana Gazette web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Gazette web sites and any content on the Gazette web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Gazette, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Gazette web sites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Texarkana Gazette
15 Pine Street
Texarkana, TX 75501
Phone: 903-794-3311
Email: webeditor@texarkanagazette.com