News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Wayside Furniture

Metro RTA

Don Drumm Studios


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Science and Technology




Exploradio: Mosquito love
A Wooster researcher is an expert in insect sex, and is using that knowledge to fight a potentially deadly pest
by WKSU's JEFF ST. CLAIR
This story is part of a special series.


Reporter / Host
Jeff St. Clair
 
A female Asian tiger mosquito fills up on human blood. The insect can transmit several dangerous diseases. Scientists are studying its reproduction to find new ways to combat the pest.
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Scientists are exploring ever more sophisticated ways to fight our oldest foe.  One Wooster researcher thinks the key to controlling mosquitoes can be found by unlocking the secrets of their reproduction.

In this week’s Exploradio we meet a mosquito ‘love doctor' who studies the battle of the sexes on the molecular level.

Exploradio - Mosquito love

Other options:
MP3 Download (3:29)


(Click image for larger view.)

The mating game

Laura Sirot teaches biology at the College of Wooster, but her passion is observing the intimate lives of insects - "I’ve spent a very good proportion of my life watching insects mate, I just find it so interesting.”  

While mosquitos in the wild don’t need any extra motivation to… get busy, she says in the lab, it’s important to set the mood…

The lighting, temperature, the humidity all have to be just right.  But music?  Not an incentive.  Apparently the vibrations bug mosquitoes.

Sirot uses a suction tube to place a single female into a cage filled with about forty amorous males. And in about the time it takes to describe the encounter, it’s over.

“Mosquitoes actually mate face to face and they sort of form a v-shape with the tips of their abdomens and you watch them and time them and count to about 15-20 seconds and it’s likely that the female’s actually been inseminated.”

Male proteins affect female behavior

And that magic moment provides what she’s looking for, mosquito semen, now inside the female, which Sirot sadly places inside a freezer. 

It turns out that the seminal fluid of mosquitoes is packed with chemicals that change the behavior of females.

Sirot is working is to identify those male mosquito proteins that, once inside the female, tell her to do things like - ‘stop mating’ or ‘go get a sip of blood to help the eggs grow.’ 

She says scientists are trying to figure out is how males are able to influence female feeding and reproduction -  "And if we can figure out how males are doing it, we’re hoping we can find new tools for us to do the same thing.”

Sirot and her colleagues are working to unravel the secrets of mosquitos’ sex life in order to develop control techniques that target only the harmful species and have little impact on the environment. 

Making sterile males more attractive

She says genetically modified male mosquitoes can be bred whose seminal proteins signal females to lay fewer eggs, or to mate only once --  a powerful tool when combined with another idea for controlling mosquitoes: releasing lab sterilized males into the wild.

She says if we can make those males we rear in the lab more competitive, then we might be able to increase the effectiveness of the sterile male technique.

Sirot’s work with the Asian tiger mosquito could help millions of people worldwide faced with dengue fever and other diseases carried by the pests. 

Asian tiger mosquitoes love discarded tires, and in the 1980’s eggs arrived in the Southern U.S. from used tires imported from Asia. They have found their way to Ohio, but so far the diseases they carry haven’t. 

Laura Sirot is a scientist on the front lines of pest control, but can’t suppress her admiration for insects’ love lives.

“These little beings that have tiny little nervous systems and yet they have very highly complex behavior.”

Understanding that behavior and the chemicals that control it could be the next breakthrough in our continual battle against the mosquito menace.

I’m Jeff St.Clair with this week’s Exploradio.  

Listener Comments:

Hi Jeff,
Interesting interview. My daughter, Hannah, is actually Professor Sirot's research assistant and this helps us get a better idea of what she is working on. Any chance that we can get your "cutting room floor" edits to share with our daughter? If not, no big deal.

Thanks, Eric Olson


Posted by: Eric Olson (Stillwater, MN) on June 19, 2012 8:06AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Support for Exploradio
provided by:








Stories with Recent Comments

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

They're talking again in the Macedonia bridge dispute
Norfolk Southern says the Ledge road bridge meets regulations for train traffic, however it was built as an overpass for a roadway and/or farm usage. I think t...

Cleveland City Council to consider transgender public restroom law
this is sick. I do not want my daughter in the same bathroom as a perverted 45 year old man. this proposed legislation could seriously damage the security of ch...

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University