Croatia targets latest climate-change threat: mosquitoes

Hordes of buzzing but sterile mosquitoes are being let loose in Zagreb as Croatia gets ahead of worries that climate change could bring tropical diseases to the Mediterranean nation.

The release is part of a pilot project focused on eradicating invasive Asian Tiger mosquitoes known for carrying sicknesses like Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Zika.

The species has appeared to thrive in the country and across the region in recent years due in part to climate change — with the warmer weather providing fertile ground for the mosquito.

“It’s too early to say whether this one will yield results,” Zagreb resident Kruno Lokotar told AFP. “But I’m glad that we are not just sticking with spraying.”

Croatia’s effort centers on a method that uses sterilized male mosquitoes — which once released into the wild will mate with females and neutralize the potential for future offspring.

The Zagreb project kickstarted in June, when 100,000 mosquitoes were released in a high-risk area with thick foliage where mosquitoes often congregate.

“If we release a sufficient number of sterile males during a certain period in an area, the mosquito population in that area will decrease,” Ana Klobucar, a medical entomologist of the Zagreb-based teaching institute of public health who is overseeing the project, told AFP.

The plan is rooted in the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) — a method that has been used for decades across the world to combat various harmful insects but is still being tested for its effectiveness against mosquitoes in urban areas.

Croatia started using it for mosquitoes last year in the northern Istria peninsula.

This year a total of 1.2 million specially treated insects will be released there over a three-month period, entomologist Nediljko Landeka of the regional public health institute told AFP.

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