What's a 'ZAP Male' mosquito? The EPA just approved it

Jesse Garza
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has approved the limited use of lab-treated mosquitoes to reduce the population of other mosquitoes that spread deadly disease.

Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, was found for the first time in Wisconsin this week. The mosquito is capable of spreading Zika, dengue fever and several other viruses.

The time-limited registration allows MosquitoMate, Inc. to sell the Wolbachia-infected male mosquitoes for five years in 20 states and the District of Columbia, according to a news release from the EPA.

The company rears male mosquitoes infected with the Wolbachia bacterium, which renders them unable to produce offspring. When released, the Wolbachia mosquitoes will compete with wild males for mates. Each time an infected male wins, procreation will fail.

A view through a microscope shows the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the virus Zika, at a laboratory at the National Institute of Health in Bogota, Colombia.

Scientists with the company hope the new mosquito biopesticide, which is being marketed under the name ZAP Males, can reduce populations of mosquitoes that carry yellow fever, dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus.

Along with Washington, D.C., the EPA approval allows ZAP Males to be sold in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Before the ZAP Males can be used, it they must be registered in those state or the district.

When the five-year time limit ends, the registration will expire unless the registrant requests further action from EPA, according to the agency said.

The EPA’s risk assessments, along with the pesticide labeling, the EPA’s response to public comments and the proposed registration decision can be found on www.regulations.govunder docket number EPA-HQ-OPP-2016-0205.