A group of experts from Microsoft has developed a new mosquito trap which promises to catch the dangerous insects while allowing friendlier ones to escape. In addition to this, the new high-tech device will record the weather conditions which are ideal for the bloodsucking species.
It’s not known yet whether it will lead to improvements in public health. The experts pilot-tested the robotic mosquito traps last summer around Houston, and they captured distinct mosquito species with 100 percent accuracy, including those which can spread Zika and other diseases.
According to Ethan Jackson, the lead researcher of the study, the mosquito trap is very much like a biologist making choices in real time related to the insects it aims to capture. These technological devices are part of a comprehensive Microsoft program, known as Project Premonition, which is focused on learning to detect the early signs of various outbreaks.
Jonathan Day, a medical entomology professor at the University of Florida, says that it remains uncertain whether the mosquito trap will improve surveillance. It is worth mentioning that Day was not involved in the Microsoft study.
Trapping has always played a major role in mosquito control and surveillance because it identifies the areas where health officials should use insecticides or take other preventive measures to deal with mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Zika and the West Nile virus.
However, trapping hasn’t improved much over the past few decades. The field biologists use net traps with insect-attracting bait as well as a fan which sucks in any insect which gets too close. Then, the entomologists sort the insects for the mosquitoes.
The new mosquito trap has 64 compartments equipped with an infrared light beam. When the insects cross the beam, the intensity of the light changes depending on the bug’s shadow, thus forming a unique fingerprint for every species.
The field biologists will set the trap to catch the desired insect species, including the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes which carry the Zika virus. During pilot testing in Harris County, Texas last summer, the mosquito trap was over ninety percent accurate in spotting the bug buzzing.
The authorities in Harris County have been on high alert conducting constant mosquito surveillance, but they found no disease-carrying mosquitoes so far. When the trap captures a mosquito, its sensors record all factors about the ideal environmental conditions for the bugs, including the humidity, temperature, and time.