Mailing mosquitoes doesn’t seem wise on the surface.
Nevertheless, researchers from New Mexico State University have been looking into it, as part of an effort to help control the spread of disease.
Sending out sterilised male mosquitoes from the lab back into the wild is one way to help reduce numbers, as they mate with females but don’t produce any offspring.
But there’s the issue of figuring out how to send thousands, or even millions of mosquitoes into a chosen wilderness area. Would they survive a 24-hour shipping process? And how many would you be able to fit in a package?
The answer is yes, and you can fit in quite a lot of the insects, as per a study published in the Journal of Insect Science on Wednesday.
NMSU’s Hae-Na Chung and her team of researchers discovered you can fit in 240 live mosquitoes per cubic centimetre, which equates to 1,200 mosquitoes to a teaspoon.
“We started our experiments in 50 milliliter tubes and quickly learned that you have to raise a lot of mosquitoes to fill such a tube — 10,000 males fit in one. We then switched to 10 millilitre syringes and were astonished how many mosquitoes you can fit into one, up to 2,500,” Immo Hansen, an associate professor at NMSU, said in a statement online.
For a shipping test, a precise number of the mosquitoes were packed into 10-millilitre syringes, of which the plungers were then compressed to the 1-millilitre mark (1 cubic centimetre).
They were then packed into a styrofoam container with a cooling element, then shipped from Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Davis, California. Upon delivery, the mosquitoes were inspected for survival rate and damage.
At 240 mosquitoes per cubic centimetre, the highest density tested, there were missing scales, and some of the insects had slightly damaged wings. But the tightness of the packing seemed to be more of a benefit.
“The high mortality of the not-so-densely packed mosquitoes in our real-world shipping assay was unexpected,” Hansen added. “We hypothesize that the vibrations during transport, especially during the flight, affected the loosely packed mosquitoes more than the densely packed ones.”
The next step for researchers is to discover how fit the mosquitoes are following shipment, which they aim to discover through semi-field experiments next year. Feeling itchy?