Naturalis team studying mosquito diversity on Saba

A group of Dutch mosquito researchers of Naturalis Biodiversity Center and Leiden University has arrived on Saba. In the past two weeks, the team of five students and two scientists have also visited St. Eustatius and St. Maarten. The main aim of this project is to determine which mosquito species are present and where on the islands they occur. The team will work closely with Saba Conservation Foundation and the government departments of Vector Control, and Public Health.

The mosquito team. Upper row from left to right: Maarten Schrama, Sam Boerlijst, Jordy van der Beek, KD Dijkstra and Emily Khazan. Bottom row: Loes Busscher and Maud Kok.

The last extensive mosquito survey was performed  70 years ago on the islands. Since then a lot has changed, making it due time for a new expedition. The researchers will use a variety of methods to collect as many mosquitoes as they can, including traps called Mosquito Magnets; a barbecue-like contraption that runs on propane and ‘exhales’ CO2, which is the cue the insects use to track down humans.

Another novel method they will use is the collection of environmental DNA. Each animal species leaves unique traces of DNA in the water during their lifetime. The team will collect small amounts of water and try to detect the marks left by mosquito larvae. This way they can prove their presence without having to obtain the actual mosquito.

On Saba, the team has added a tree climber to the group who will look for bromeliads and tree holes filled with water, especially on Mt Scenery, which is considered to be essential breeding grounds but due to inaccessibility this is rarely done.

After the expedition on Saba, the team hopes to gain better insight into the mosquito diversity on Saba and their habits. This information will be helpful in mosquito control because some species may carry diseases while others do not. The team will contribute to public health issues and biodiversity conservation on the island and would like to thank the community for their help and hospitality.

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