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I've been killing the 'helpful' Project Wolbachia mosquitoes, as they are a nuisance

Since the full scale implementation of Project Wolbachia in Tampines last year, residents such as myself have had mosquitoes invading our homes frequently.

A close-up view of Wolbachia-infected Aedes mosquitoes.

A close-up view of Wolbachia-infected Aedes mosquitoes.

Since the full scale implementation of Project Wolbachia in Tampines last year, residents such as myself have had mosquitoes invading our homes frequently.   

In 2019, Dr Amy Khor, then Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, said that there was a 90 per cent suppression rate at study sites in Tampines and Yishun from February to November that year.

However, certain public housing estates under the project were still dengue hot zones last year.

The idea of the project is to have the male Aedes mosquitoes, which are injected with the Wolbachia bacteria, mate with female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes. The females then go on to lay eggs that do not hatch, effectively suppressing their numbers.

Just from observation alone, the project seems to have increased the mosquito population tremendously, affecting the quality of life of residents. 

Male mosquitoes that do not bite are released twice a week along common corridors in my estate.

Based on what is stated on the website of the National Environment Agency (NEA), it acknowledged that sterile female Wolbachia mosquitoes that bite could be released unintentionally because “sex-sorting is not 100 per cent accurate”.

As for the male Wolbachia mosquitoes, they are just as irritating because they hover around you and land on your skin.

Since we cannot tell the mosquito’s gender apart or whether it is Wolbachia or wild Aedes mosquito given that they seem to look alike, we kill them. 

NEA breeds Wolbachia mosquitoes for release and residents spend time and money on insecticide and gadgets to kill them.

Perhaps the authorities here would want to consider studying the methods used in countries such as Australia, where there is a self-sustaining approach.

There are areas in Australia where Wolbachia female and male mosquitoes are released together just once. Over time, these mosquitoes breed with the wild ones and achieve a sustainable Wolbachia population to curb the dengue problem.

The non-profit World Mosquito Program using Wolbachia-carrying mosquitoes is one to look at: It has regional hubs in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. Its projects to fight mosquito-borne diseases are ongoing in Asia, Australia and Latin America.

An effective programme should be self-sustaining, reducing the dengue problem without continuously increasing the mosquito population and affecting the quality of life of residents.  

With residents using more insecticide to kill the mosquitoes in their homes, this is neither healthy nor environmental friendly. NEA should review their current method as it is a nightmare for residents to be perpetually invaded by mosquitoes.

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Related topics

dengue Aedes mosquito Wolbachia Tampines NEA

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