Mess with skeeters, brace for the worst

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 5, 2011 - 9:48 PM
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The British firm Oxitec has developed mosquitoes containing a gene that will kill them unless they are given tetracycline.

Photo: Derric Nimmo, Oxitec via New York Times

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Last week the mayor of Minneapolis' blog posted a pothole-prevention boast: 45 miles of streets resealed, which means fewer axle-snapping interludes next spring.

Great. Thank you. Smooth streets that don't make our back molars slam together are one of the things we expect government to do, and when you enter a pothole so deep that your oxygen mask drops from the roof of your car, you think: taxes. They go for something. Ah, but for what?

Thinking about the perils of pothole season is also a reminder that winter may grumble and mutter in the wings, and the wan sun may have turned into a bored lover who's lost interest, but spring will come again. And when it does, we will be grateful for everything except the 50-foot-tall mutant super-mosquitoes.

I assume they're inevitable, based on this recent New York Times headline: "Concerns Are Raised About Genetically Modified Mosquitoes." Doesn't that make you want to know more?

You scan the article for something like "ever since a researcher was found dead, his chest pierced by what appeared to be some massively long, sharp object, scientists have wondered if his work altering the DNA of mosquitoes might be related." That's not the case.

They're just tweaking skeeter DNA trying to pass on a gene that kills their offspring. That's all!

I'm not fearful of genetic experiments, but when it comes to mosquitoes: LEAVE THEM ALONE. It starts with a little piece in the science news -- "Totally harmless genetic modifications may convince mosquitoes to bother someone else" -- and two years later the front page of the paper screams: "Genetically altered bats, once thought to be humanity's last hope against the mosquito peril, destroy six F-14s in an aerial battle."

We can only hope the hummingbirds genetically bred to eat the emerald ash borer will be our ally in this struggle; if they throw in with the bats, it is over.

I'm not saying any of this will happen, but it could, so we must eliminate their breeding grounds -- shallow, wet depressions.

Like potholes! Whew. We're saved.

jlileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 More daily at www.startribune.com/popcrush.

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