Genetically Modified Mosquitos: Biohacking For Disease Prevention

Many years ago, I took a summer trip to the Maryland shore with some friends. One of my buddies and I got bored with playing football on the beach, so we decided to take a hike on one of the many trails back into the wooded area behind the dunes. At the trailhead we noticed a prominent sign, warning about the presence of “very aggressive mosquitos” and not to enter without first applying ample insect repellent. We scoffed at the warning as only young idiots could and soldiered on, bare-legged and confident that we’d be fine.

About three minutes into our hike, a small group came pelting down the trail in a panic. “It’s true! Turn back!” they shouted as they flew past us. Undeterred, or at least unwilling to appear that way to each other, we pressed on, only to discover a few minutes later that we were making a substantial blood sacrifice to the next generation of mosquitos on Assateague Island. We couldn’t bear more than a few seconds before turning tail and running back to the beach and jumping into the ocean to get rid of the last few dozen bloodsuckers.

I learned a valuable lesson from that experience, as well as developing a deep and abiding hatred of mosquitos. It turns out I’m in good company — pretty much everyone hates mosquitos, which are not just a nuisance but can be downright dangerous to be around. But if tests with genetically engineered mosquitos currently underway in Florida turn out well, we may be able to finally turn the tide against mosquito-borne diseases, simply by killing all the females before they ever reach adulthood.

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Laser Zap That Mosquito

When we first heard of [Ildar Rakhmatulin’s] plan to use OpenCV on a Raspberry Pi to detect mosquitos and then zap them with a 1 watt laser, we thought it was sort of humorous. However, the paper points out that 700,000 people die each year from mosquito bites — we didn’t verify that, but according to the article that’s twice the number of people murdered each year. So the little pests are pretty effective assassins.

It looks as though the machine has been built, at least in a test configuration. A galvanometer aims the death ray using mirrors, and with the low power and lossy mirrors the mosquitos can only be a small distance from the machine — about a foot.

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Killing Mosquitoes With Cardi B

Keeping a bird bath or a pond in your yard is a great way to add ambiance and style, but both of these things can be a haven for mosquitoes. Popular methods of getting rid of them are often with harsh pesticides, but [Shane] has brought us a more environmentally-friendly way of taking care of these disease-carrying insects by looping a Cardi B playlist underwater, killing the mosquito larvae.

While the build does include some other favorites such as “Baby Shark” and would probably work with any song (or audio of sufficient volume) the build is still pretty interesting. It’s based on a 555 timer circuit which powered an ultrasonic sound gun, but was repurposed for this build. The ultrasonic modules were replaced with piezo modules which were waterproofed with silicone. The sound produced vibrates at a frequency which resonates with the mosquito larvae and is fatal to them. [Shane] put the build into a small boat which can be floated in any pond, bird bath, horse trough, or water feature.

The major caveat to this build is that it may be damaging to other beneficial animals such as fish or frogs, so he suggests limiting its use to uninhabited stagnant water. Either way, though, it’s a pretty unique way of taking care of a mosquito problem not unlike another build which takes care of these insects in water a slightly different way.

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Cheap And Effective Mosquito Trap Looks Like A Disco

Words cannot quite articulate the collective loathing humankind has for mosquitoes, and rightfully so! These parasite peddling, blood sucking little critters are responsible for a great deal of human suffering. Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria still account for a significant proportion of human mortality, especially in under-developed parts of the world . So it’s no wonder that people try to reduce their numbers; see this latest $40 mosquito trap by [jacobsk]. (Video, embedded below.)

The idea is critically simple, opening up the potential for widespread deployment. The base and body of the trap are made out of three five-gallon buckets with a mini desk fan sandwiched in between, providing suction into the main trap bin. An opening is cut in the top bucket as a point of entry, and an old school incandescent blacklight is mounted in the centre, with just enough IR and UV output to entice these little vermin, who will definitely regret mistaking it for a black-light rave.

[jacobsk] also does a very good job of showing every step of its construction in his videos. Whilst this solution is purposefully low tech, check out this admittedly overcooked way of killing mosquitoes, with a laser turret.

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Obstacle Avoidance For Drones, Learned From Mosquitoes

Our understanding of the sensory capabilities of animals has a lot of blanks, and often new discoveries serve as inspiration for new technology. Researchers from the University of Leeds and the Royal Veterinary College have found that mosquitos can navigate in complete darkness by detecting the subtle changes in the air flow created when they fly close to obstacles. They then used this knowledge to build a simple but effective sensor for use on drones.

Extremely sensitive receptors at the base of the antennae on mosquitoes’ heads, called the Johnston’s organ, allow them to sense these tiny changes in airflow. Using fluid dynamics simulations based on high speed photography, the researchers found that the largest changes in airflow occur over the mosquito’s head, which means the receptors are in exactly the right place. From their data, scientists predict that mosquitos could possibly detect surfaces at a distance of more than 20 wing lengths. Considering how far 20 arm lengths is for us, that’s pretty impressive. If you can get past the paywall, you can read the full article from the Science journal.

Using their newfound knowledge, the researchers equipped a small drone with probe tubes connected to differential pressure sensors. Using these sensors the drone was able to effectively detect when it got close to the wall or floor, and avoid a collision. The sensors also require very little computational power because it’s only a basic threshold value. Check out the video after the break.

Although this sensing method might not replace ultrasonic or time-of-flight sensors for drones, it does show that there is still a lot we can learn from nature, and that simpler is usually better. We’ve already seen simple insect-inspired navigation for drone swarms, as well as an optical navigation device for humans that works without satellites and only requires a view of the sky. Thanks for the tip [Qes]! Continue reading “Obstacle Avoidance For Drones, Learned From Mosquitoes”

ERRF 18: Slice Engineering Shows Off The Mosquito

With few exceptions, it seemed like every 3D printer at the first inaugural East Coast RepRap Festival (ERRF) was using a hotend built by E3D. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; E3D makes solid open source products, and they deserve all the success they can get. But that being said, competition drives innovation, so we’re particularly interested anytime we see a new hotend that isn’t just an E3D V6 clone.

The Mosquito from Slice Enginerring is definitely no E3D clone. In fact, it doesn’t look much like any 3D printer hotend you’ve ever seen before. Tiny and spindly, the look of the hotend certainly invokes its namesake. But despite its fragile appearance, this hotend can ramp up to a monstrous 500 C, making it effectively a bolt-on upgrade for your existing machine that will allow you to print in exotic materials such as PEEK.

We spent a little time talking with Slice Engineering co-founder [Dan], and while there’s probably not much risk it’s going to dethrone E3D as the RepRap community’s favorite hotend, it might be worth considering if you’re thinking of putting together a high-performance printer.

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Eradicating Mosquitoes From Your Backyard — With Seltzer?

Q: What do you call 8000 dead mosquitoes in a Mason jar?

A: A good start. AndĀ [Dan Rojas]’s low-tech mosquito trap accomplished the feat in two nights with nothing fancier than a fan and a bottle of seltzer.

We know what you’re thinking: Where’s the hack? Why not at least use a laser sentry gun to zap skeeters on the fly? We agree that [Dan]’s mosquito trap, consisting of a powerful fan to create suction and a piece of window screen to catch the hapless bloodsuckers, is decidedly low-tech. But you can’t argue with results. Unless he’s fudging the numbers, a half-full Mason jar of parasite cadavers is pretty impressive. And you have to love the simplicity of the attractant he’s using. Mosquitoes are attracted to the CO2 exhaled by tasty mammals, but rather than do something elaborate with a paintball gun cartridge or the like, [Dan] simply cracks a bottle of seltzerĀ and lets it outgas. Dead simple, and wickedly effective. The trapped bugs quickly desiccate in the strong air stream, aided by a few spritzes of isopropyl alcohol before cleaning the screen, which leaves them safely edible to frogs and insects.

Simple, cheap, and effective. Sounds like a great hack to us. And it’s really just a brute-force implementation of this mosquito-killing billboard for areas prone to Zika.

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