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Mosquito-eating bats enlisted in the battle against Zika

July 7th, 2016 | Tags:
The nocturnal mammals, which are natural mosquito predators, can eat up to 1,000 of the disease-spreading bugs in a single hour, making them a chemical-free approach to pest control. Photo: Caribbean360.com
Caribbean360

NEW YORK, United States– While scientists scramble to come up with an effective vaccine against the Zika virus, one Long Island town has adopted a less conventional approach to fighting the disease: bats.

The nocturnal mammals, which are natural mosquito predators, can eat up to 1,000 of the disease-spreading bugs in a single hour, making them a chemical-free approach to pest control.

Encouraged by the prospect, officials in North Hempstead, New York, have approved the construction of boxes that simulate a bat’s natural habitat and function as such in several parks in an effort to attract more bats to the area.

The town started promoting the building and hanging of bat houses in its parks in 2007 to curb the use of pesticides, and it has added a few more each year since.

“We have an increased sense of urgency in terms of wanting to make sure that we’re controlling the mosquito population to the very best of our ability,” said town supervisor Judi Bosworth, alluding to the threat of Zika and the West Nile virus.

“Just having bat houses isn’t going to be the answer, but at least it’s looking toward a solution that is environmentally friendly.”

As for the potential danger the bats gobble up, Aedes albopictus, known as the Asian tiger mosquito, is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting, according to Dr Susan Donelan, an infectious disease specialist at Stony Brook.

In the Caribbean, Zika is typically transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which can spread other tropical diseases like dengue fever and chikungunya.

So far, there have been no reported cases of local transmission of Zika on Long Island, Dr Donelan said.

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