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.

Meaden & Moore

Lehmans

Akron Children's Hospital


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

Canton's proposed Timken-McKinley school merger is drawing spirited debate
From a sports opinion Varsity would have a lot more talent to choose from So Im sure varsity sports would improve.Also Timkens name would be much more published...

Canton school board will decide whether to merge high schools
I really hope we can save those jobs, usually we try to cut budgets but the demand is still the same. Then we look bad a year or two after the descion is made. ...

FirstEnergy wants PUCO guarantees on nuclear and coal prices
Would just comment that the plant has admitted the following (as reporting in the Akron Beacon Journal): "The utility has said it may have difficulty keeping t...

Mozzarella's easy when you have a way with curd
Hello, Where can I get such a heater that you have? Does it hold temperature that you set? What brand and model is it? Thank you in advance!! :)

Pluto: A healthy LeBron James is the key for the rocky Cavs
It's time to back our Cleveland professional teams through thick and thin. I've seen management, players and coaches come and go and it hasn't changed a thing. ...

Legal marijuana group offers new details about ballot issue
Americans feel as if they should have the right to decide on their own if and when it is or is not a responsible time to have a drink or smoke a joint. The fac...

The PUCO is assessing what happened in Akron's AT&T outage
not the first time for that steam pipe break... happened in the late 70's when the office was being converted to electronic switch ESS.. was a big mess then but...

The freeze of green-energy standards hurts Ohio wind and solar industries
What do we do at night and when the wind isn't blowing? Where does the power come from to back-up these renewable sources?

Gov. Kasich may still face budget battles with Ohio lawmakers
Governor Kasich continues to disappoint many of us who voted for him when he was elected Governor four years ago. It is way past time for charter schools to b...

FairlawnGig could bring super-fast fiber optic internet to the city
Sign me up! When can we have it. It is not nice to tease us with the possibility and then make us wait. Though I have to add that the speed to China does req...

Copyright © 2015 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