His field experiments include having people sit outside with legs exposed and capturing mosquitos that try to bite them so he can learn about them: What species are they? What diseases can they carry? When are they biting? Where are they located?

He also wants to understand how current tools are being used since people often ignore or misuse the tools designed to reduce the spread of malaria.

He is currently working on an electronic mosquito barrier that would create electric fields between wires. People who protest the use of mesh in their windows because it reduces airflow in the summers could use this technology to keep mosquitos out. Military units could use it to keep mosquitos out of their temporary facilities.

Here in Arizona, it could be used around storm drains where mosquitos congregate to lay eggs. Then, either they would be blocked from laying eggs or be trapped after laying eggs.

Arizona is a mosquito 'hot bed'

Though excited about the insectory, this is only a temporary facility. In a year, they will have a high-security, negative air pressure insectory with flight rooms and large experiment areas where they will be able to bring mosquitos back from Mozambique and conduct their experiments on the mosquitos that carry diseases they are studying.

Currently, they can only have disease-free, local mosquitos in their temporary facility.

But luckily, the researchers are living in a mosquito hot bed.

“Vector control says Arizona is the highest density of mosquitos of anywhere in the United States and that’s why people love to come here and work with them,” Paaijmans said. “All of the storm drain water creates perfect conditions.”

Huijben added, “When we do our research in Guyana or Mozambique, we’re very happy if we get 100 in a trap, 50 even. But usually, it’s like three or eight. But here they had one trap, one night, 80,000 mosquitos. In just one trap.”

In the next year, they can pilot test many of their experiments on local populations, strengthening their hypotheses before bringing back mosquitos from Mozambique.

“Patterns will be quite similar. They’re just different vector,” Paaijmans said. “You never know until you do the experiment. We just don’t know how that will it will apply to malaria mosquitos. Many biological life history traits that we study in one mosquito applies to other mosquito species as well, but we have to test on both.”

Melinda Weaver

Communications specialist, School of Life Sciences