Cyprus enlists animal kingdom to fight mosquitoes

Tue Oct 21, 2008 7:11am EDT
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NICOSIA (Reuters Life!) - Cyprus is turning to mother nature to deal with an invasion of mosquitoes which has become the bane of islanders each summer.

Rather than blitzing the insect with copious doses of pesticide, authorities say natural predators such as dragon flies, fish, frogs and swallows can be recruited to deal with the irritant.

"We can use dragon flies as a natural alternative to chemicals to control mosquitoes," senior health inspector Andreas Hadjivasiliou told Reuters.

The findings are part of the first three-year study on alternative methods to counter mosquitoes on the island, which experiences long scorching summers.

"We noticed that mosquitoes in Cyprus were more abundant so we called in international experts to help us investigate...This is the first time it has been done in Cyprus and our aim is to educate the public of the facts," Hadjivasiliou said.

Mosquitoes are vectors of many diseases, and climate change and an increase in global temperatures has added to the number of diseases they carry, medical officials said.

In 2005, in cooperation with researchers in California and Athens, scientists in Cyprus undertook a series of experiments using integrated mosquito management techniques which are kinder to the environment than traditional methods.

"We carried out tests using growth regulating pesticides such as Methoprene and Pyriproxyfen which inhibit the development of mosquito larva growing into adult mosquitoes and found that using even half the suggested dose was effective," said health inspector Marlene Vasques.

Up until the late 1940s Cyprus saw 10,000 cases of malaria per year mainly in young children.

With the introduction of a malaria eradication scheme between 1945 and 1950, instances of the disease within Cyprus vanished.

(Writing by Sarah Ktisti; Editing by Paul Casciato)