When is a Mosquito not a Mosquito? When it’s a Robber Fly…or Anything Else Too…

A friend of mine alerted me to a news story that had the below image.  It was associated (though not located on) a story about “genetically modified” mosquitoes and how we crazy, genome-slingin’ scientists are going to destroy the planet with our lust for fame, money and power…or something.   Now, I’m not trying to make the majority of people feel bad about this for believing it initially.  Most people don’t have a clue about what “genetically modified” (what we call transgenic…Shih Tzu’s are genetically modified…we like to be accurate…but I digress) really means and just as few know much about insects.  That’s why I’m here!  To try to clear the air and help out.  Because if there’s one thing I live for… **insert concerned & loving expression**…it’s helping people.  🙂  So Bring It On!

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This “genetically modified” mosquito isn’t even a mosquito AT ALL!!! It’s a Robber Fly!

First off, the article I mention is right on one count and one count only; insects will be released by scientists which have had their genome manipulated (this can be done using radiation or molecular techniques) will be released into Florida.  This is NOT the first time this sort of thing has happened and in fact this exact same type of program has been done before and to great success!  What the scientists are doing (or rather did, because this was year or more ago) is part of what’s called the Sterile Release Method.

These sterile release programs are nothing new and have occurred many times. The first use of this technique successfully eradicated a major pest and health hazard the Primary Screwworm Fly. What happens is they release males that are sterile (hence the name). These males can still mate though but they won’t produce offspring with the female. Female things she’s gonna have eggs, doesn’t mate again, dies = no eggs. This has been demonstrated to be a very successful method of eradicating pests. What they are trying to do is prevent vector borne diseases (i.e. diseases transmitted by this particular mosquito species) from becoming prevalent in the US. Think about Malaria in Africa. Point two on this little thing…the mosquito we’re talking about isn’t even native. It is an invasive species and can transmit disease!

The image is that of a Robber Fly. Same order as the mosquito (Diptera = True Flies) but a completely different family (Mosquito = Culicidae; Robber Fly = Asilidae). Robber flies are predators of other insects and also sometimes pollinators.   Some are claiming is is a mosquito somewhat common in Florida called a Galliniper (Psorophora ciliata).  As I said earlier, it is a Robber Fly, though I am not certain of the actual species.  Come on, there are over 7000 species of robber flies that we know of.

Check out the below comparisons between a Gallinipper (Top) and a Robber Fly (Bottom).  First off, there are two big things that distinguish these guys, the legs and the neck.  The mosquito neck is quite constricted and you almost don’t see where the thorax and head join.  When you compare that to the robber fly you see almost a muscle builder neck by comparison!  Additionally, the heads of mosquitoes are much smaller in relation to their body than the robber flies.

Gallinipper (Psorophora ciliata) http://bugguide.net/node/view/85638

What would you rather have, sterile mosquitoes that aren’t going to reproduce…or dengue fever?
 Please stop reading that website. It’s horrid.
For more information on the program here’s a decent CNN post.
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