Should we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?

Zika virus

Should we wipe mosquitoes off the face of the Earth?

Even before the Zika virus, mosquitoes were the deadliest creatures on the planet. But gene modification means these blood suckers’ days might be numbered. Is it dangerous to talk about ‘editing nature’, or should we consider eradicating them for good?

fumigaçãoWorkers fumigating a Zika outbreak in Caracas, Venezuela. Photograph: Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock

Archie Bland

When an Aedes aegypti mosquito bites you, she – because only the females, which need blood as nutrients for their offspring, bite – will probe your skin with her proboscis as many as 20 times. Two pairs of sharp cutting edges, the fascicle, break the skin and then search for a blood vessel, withdrawing and re-entering until a suitable target is found. When the blood starts to flow, a salivary tube delivers a protein that stops it clotting. The mosquito holds still and then begins to suck; in 90 seconds’ time, she feels full, and stops. And then, if you are in parts of South and Central America and bang out of luck, you will have Zika. Read more.