It would be nice if people living in warm climates did not have to worry about mosquito-borne disease. Unfortunately, mosquitoes are quite abundant in just about every region that sees tropical or subtropical weather, but not all regions. Some island getaways advertise that they are mosquito-free, but mosquitoes always seem to become a problem in warm climates no matter where you are. For example, the Republic of Seychelles is located entirely on an island. The leaders and inhabitants of this island have long bragged about their lack of mosquito-borne diseases among the public, mostly malaria. But very few islands are completely free of mosquitoes, including Seychelles. However, one group of islands in the South Pacific near Hawaii are, in fact, entirely free of mosquitoes. The islands are free of mosquitoes due to a pest control measure that you would never want to see repeated within the continental United States.


One thousand miles south of Hawaii a group of islands exist that are known as the Palmyra Atoll. These islands are as remote as possible. Not only have the islands never seen human inhabitants, but almost no animals at all are native to the atoll except for a few different types of insects. However, the Atoll was home to enormous amounts of rats and mosquitoes, both of which are not native to the islands. During World War Two the Pacific theater saw a lot of human traffic. Many Pacific islands were made into landing strips and bases for military aircraft and personnel. These humans accidently brought rats and mosquitoes with them to the island, where they flourished. Since mosquitoes and rats do not have any natural predators on the island, the rate at which they proliferated had been much more rapid than usual. For more than seventy years, these two pests had been filling the small islands with generations of offspring. By 2011 experts estimated that at least forty thousand rats inhabited the Atoll.


According to Stefan Kropidlowski of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service the rats quickly began killing off native birds. This changed several years ago when the Atoll was marked as a nature preserve. Once this occured, eradicating the rats became a priority. In 2011 the Atoll was covered with a deadly substance designed to kill rats. A few years later, researchers wanted to study the effect that the pesticides and the absence of the rats were having on the native wildlife in the Atoll. Strangely, during the two year-long research project, the researchers did not see one single Asian tiger mosquito on the islands. Asian tiger mosquitoes were the only types of mosquitoes on the islands. Therefore, not only did the rats become extinct as a result of the pesticides, but mosquitoes did too. Normally, non-native species will permanently disrupt an ecosystem after seventy years of pest-activity. However, in this particular case, the researchers got lucky, especially with the “secondary extinction”.


Do you believe that eradicating mosquitoes is more important than eradicating rats in human populated areas?


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