Imagine a drab coloured bicycle helmet sized container, hidden atop light poles throughout the Callaghan campus that contain a living thing: bacteria that produce an enzyme. What is it? A cunning, highly targeted and sustainable mosquito trap that makes use of natural systems to lure and disable only the highly localised population of this very important participant in the local ecosystem.
So how does it work? Mosquitoes use a variety of methods to find their prey. At distances close to fifty metres the mosquito follows a plume of CO2 created by humans, shifting at approximately ten metres when the mosquito is able to make use of lactic acid and polyamines in sweat to more accurately track targets. From one metre, away heat becomes the final attractant. By manipulating all three components of the mosquito targeting system, we propose a trap and delivery system for population reduction within a localised area. Mosquitos don’t traverse large distances, approximately five kilometres over their lifespan, meaning a strategy of this kind deployed within a limited area like Callaghan will greatly improve the lifestyle of University students, without the need to eradicate the species. This is important given that when not in the breeding state mosquitoes are pollinators, filling vital gaps in the flora ecosystem.
Our trap and delivery design will make use of a heated bacterial system housed within an elevated bicycle helmet sized container. Within the bacterial system lactic acid and polyamine production will generate small amounts of carbon dioxide to lure mosquitoes from up to fifty metres away. Our system will upregulate the production of polyamines and lactic acid to produce the CO2 for the first tier of the mosquitos prey location, as well as producing the chemicals for the second tier of hunting. Heat will be used as an incubator for the bacteria, as well as the final tier attractant. A capture system will be deployed whereby the mosquito will come in contact with an enzyme that effects it overtime: chitinase. Chitinase produced by the bacteria within our design breaks down the exoskeleton of the mosquito at the feet, disabling its ability to recognise prey. In a nutshell: mosquitoes touch and taste the skin when they land and if we don’t feel or taste right they don’t bite. The chitinase will prevent the insects from finding prey after contact.
Is it safe? Yes. Chitinase is non-toxic to birds, mammals, fish and amphibians, so a system of this kind will have little effect on the local fauna. Reduction of the population over consecutive generations will lessen the number of mosquitoes without completely removing the pollinators from the ecosystem. Our system targets the mosquito population without effecting other arthropod species, especially if kept off the ground. There is the possibility to incorporate these systems into existing infrastructure with the tops of lights being the perfect location. These devices would effectively be a small and unobtrusive black dome, out of sight and mind.