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Sonic-powered Mosquito Larvae Eliminator 76

Posted by Hemos
from the but-does-it-work dept.
Bob Vila's Hammer writes "Inventor Michael Nyberg, at the age of 15, developed the idea for a mosquito larvae eradicator after hearing about rising cases of West Nile virus. His company, Larvasonic, has developed these devices. They utilize sonic blasts at certain frequency that rupture the breathing sacs of the larvae, killing them instantly. Remarkably, it does not harm other insects and it is considered a very effective means of destroying problematic mosquito infestations."
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Sonic-powered Mosquito Larvae Eliminator

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  • by PateraSilk (668445) <tedol@isostandar ... inus threevowels> on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:26AM (#8292695) Homepage
    This can't be first post! Well, I'll be! Anyway, this is really quite interesting. Maybe someone should contact the Gates Foundation to see if this could help eradicate malaria in 3rd World nations. It looks like a pretty damn cheap solution.
    • The cheapest and best method for malaria disease control would be a vaccine, in which an single inoculation would deliver permanent immunity. Unfortunately, western drug companies are traditionally unprepared to invest money, in tropical/non-western diseases, due to high risks and return of investment.

      At least William H. Gates Foundation has got the right idea The William H. Gates Foundation Announces a $50 Million Gift to Establish the Malaria Vaccine Initiative [malariavaccine.org]

      • Malaria has numerous animal reservoirs (like flu), so a vaccine is not going to wipe it out (unlike smallpox or polio). This leaves the organism the opportunity to evolve to better infect humans despite vaccination. Malaria has evolved to be resistant to drugs such as chloroquine, so it would not surprise me to watch it evolve to suppress or alter the antigens which make it recognizable by the vaccine-primed immune system.

        Vaccines would be a good component of a defense-in-depth; the downside is that the w

        • Modern drugs (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          You correctly present the problems in creating a vaccine for malaria.

          However, Is it not a simply a matter of insufficient international research funding, for a non-western/tropical disease, that leaves this disease without modern drugs

          After all chloroquine was introduced in 1943, 61 years ago, and was highly effective.

          The recent outbrake SARS show the speed and technology that modern drug companies can throw at a problem when energised to do so, why not for malaria?

          History of malaria [museums.org.za]

          Ideal malari [malaria-vaccines.org.uk]

          • Re:Modern drugs (Score:3, Informative)

            by datababe72 (244918)
            No, it is not "simply a matter of insufficient international research funding" that is slowing the development of anti-malaria drugs.

            This is certainly a problem, and more money for malaria research would definitely help.

            However, you could throw all the money in the world at the problem, and still not get a good drug as quickly as you'd like. To get a drug that is effective against a disease without also killing the host, you need to exploit differences between the host and the disease-causing organism. M
          • And another thing: drug companies ARE researching malaria and other diseases that are most common in poorer parts of the world.

            Novartis opened an institute for the study of tropical diseases [biomed-singapore.com] a couple of years ago.

            No, they aren't spending as much on this as they spend on cancer, impotence, obesity, and other "western" diseases, but drug companies are COMPANIES. Which means they have to try to make money. If you want more money spent on diseases that primarily affect people who can't pay for drugs, you can
        • Perhaps if people could be caused to simulate having a single chromosome for sickle cell anemia... Ok, so what I learned once-upon-a-time in Bio or anthro or such: Sickle cell anemia is a condition that allows for mixed dominance. I.e. say you have the chromosome pair where sickle cell could be coded for, and call n a normal chromosome and s a sickle cell-coding chromosome. If you have nn, you're "normal", "ss" you have sickle cell anemia, and "ns", you have a mix of both cells (so it is not a purely domin
      • He should have developed one for keeping adult mosquitos at bay.

        The best way to kill larvae though is with oil, kerosene or diesel works well. It forms a thin layer on the water, so when the mosquitos emerge they are coated and can not breathe.

        Also DEET dropped from above by helocopters is a good thing.

  • by no longer myself (741142) on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:27AM (#8292699)
    We should put these things into mass production, stategically place them throughout the entire world, then eraticate the entire mosquito population and make them go the way of the carrier pigeon.

    OK, so I sound a little hateful, but I'm tired of being under them on the food chain. It hurts my self-esteem. (What's left of it anyway...)

    • by lcde (575627) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:46AM (#8293545) Homepage
      Just as a side note.... won't this eraticate the dragon fly population. Their larvae eat mosquito larvae...
      • by Anonymous Coward
        Dragon flies are general predators.

        They'll eat anything that moves and is the right size.
        • Dragon flies are general predators.

          They'll eat anything that moves and is the right size.
          BR>

          Example:

          I went fishing once. I had my rod and reel all ready to go, with a lure attached. Before casting, I adjusted the reel a bit. I happened to be holding the rod at about 45 degrees, with the lure dangling on a short length of line. Physics being what it is, the lure spun around in a tight circle. Imagine my surprise when a dragonfly appeared ... hovered just beneath the lure ... then circled arou
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:29AM (#8292706)
    I thought it was crows that spread this. If this Ny-guy can invent one that makes crows explode, I'm all for it!
  • Malaria too (Score:4, Insightful)

    by kinnell (607819) on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:30AM (#8292708)
    West nile virus aside, think about the effect this could have on malaria. Mosquito control without the massive environmental fallout of chemical insecticides. I just hope it's cheap enough that the regions which need this can afford it.
  • OK, but what about dogs ?

    Many other animals supposedly live under water, although I can't name one right now. What is the effect of this on them ?

    Really interesting, anyway.
  • Hmm (Score:4, Funny)

    by LizardKing (5245) on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:35AM (#8292727)

    I bet he used to pull the wings off flies when he was younger.

    Chris

    • well of course. how else would he make them sit still while figuring out what frequency of sound makes them explode?
    • I bet he used to pull the wings off flies when he was younger.

      When he was younger? I bet he still does (he's only 15).

      Heck, we still try to see what'll explode in the microwaves at the caf...all in the name of scientific experiments, ya know, but still...

  • All graphics! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DrSkwid (118965) on Monday February 16, 2004 @08:46AM (#8292765) Homepage Journal


    the guy might be clever but he needs a lessson in how to get one's site indexed

    I guess a /.'ing is one way to spread the word but some lifeforms need the blood of the search engine to survive.

  • Would be nice if it would work on grown mosquitos too... (I really really hate mosquitos.)
    • by TwistedGreen (80055) <twistedgreenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:45AM (#8293103)
      Oh, but their lifespans are miniscule. And if they have no children to take over their parasitic empire...

      It'll be Genocide: The Next Generation!
    • I really really hate mosquitos.

      I suggest you get one of those electric mosquito killers. You know, the ones that look like small tennis rackets. Extremely satisfying devices. Just one minute in a swarm of mosquitoes with one of those is equivalent of more than a quarter of hour of gibbing people in an FPS. The only bad part is the smell made by the exploding mosquitoes.

      Nevertheless, a sonic gun with an area effect would be sweet...

      I've also been thinking of a small radar-directed laser system. I, too, r

  • Breeding Resistance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by justanyone (308934) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:13AM (#8292940) Homepage Journal
    Hey:

    I'm wondering if this would just breed resistance to having body parts susceptible to sonic disruption. After all, mosquitoes breed in incredibly large numbers, so in very few generations, resistance to this should develop.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of "Better Living Thru No Chemicals" (tm) (grin) but I just see this thing as flawed in its longevity given the natural forces at work.

    How much does ultrasonic propogate through water? These larvae are in water, right? So, the larvae that are on the surface are killed (which is most of them if memory serves about how their life cycle works). But, what about the ones slightly below the surface? And even farther? They get less of a sonic dose, and are bred for resistance.

    This is the same kind of thing that's being done with lysteria and myriad other diseases/organisms by administering antibiotics in small doses to cattle / other livestock. We're breeding for better organisms that will evade our better efforts.

    Good job, though, and hearty thanks to the 15 year old.

    I might suggest people build more bat houses, though. Bats are known to eat half their weight in insects, mostly skeeters, per NIGHT. Note: I think skeeters must be high fiber (grin) or this would be really filling (!!!).

    I have a bat house; we just moved, and I'm going to reinstall it at our new house. They're like birdhouses, but specific to bats (whose natural habitat, rotting trees and caves, are very scarce in suburbia). Contrary to popular opinion, bats don't carry disease readily because they're rather fragile creatures, they just die and people find them, think they're the disease carriers instead of the victims. Bats are actually very, very useful, and really harmless creatures. Give them a home, I say, and get rid of the skeeters that way.

    Evolutionary pressures have been balancing out this predator / prey for a long time.

    • by TwistedGreen (80055) <twistedgreenNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:43AM (#8293086)
      You can't stop evolution from happening, though it doesn't look like mosquitoes will develop a resistance to bats anytime soon...

      This is because bats prey on the fundamental design of a mosquito: they can move faster, think faster, sense faster. Developing a resistance to bats will require a change in the entire organism.

      I think there is a similar case in the vulnerability of their breathing sacs. This is a rather fundamental organ of the mosquito, and expecting it to change very rapidly is unreasonable. This is not just some chemical resistance, but an inherent physical vulnerability. They may evolve thicker breathing sacs, but this is a flaw in the fundamental structure of the breathing sac and cannot be changed quickly. Thus, correcting this defect won't happen over a few generations.
    • I'm no biologist but I doubt that mosquitos could evolve to defeat a mechanical device. I mean, it's one thing if you introduce a poison to attack the cells but how would the cell evolve to stop a soundwave ?
      • but how would the cell evolve to stop a soundwave ?

        By changing the resonant frequency. The more effective 24KHz is (the frequency mentioned in the article) the faster the evolution would happen, as only those larvae that resonate at a different frequency would survive. Over time, in places where this device was heavily used, you'd get a range of possible frequencies in the larvae.

    • by kinnell (607819)
      I'm wondering if this would just breed resistance to having body parts susceptible to sonic disruption. After all, mosquitoes breed in incredibly large numbers, so in very few generations, resistance to this should develop.

      I imagine it would take a lot more than just a few generations, but even then, you could just change the frequency to match the bigger/smaller air sacks. I doubt mosquitos without these air sacks are going to evolve anytime soon.

      How much does ultrasonic propogate through water?

      Sou

    • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Monday February 16, 2004 @12:02PM (#8294267)
      I'm all for bat houses, but make sure you place it strategically so that your kids dont play near/with the bat guano. It can be toxic due to fungus/microorganisms contained in it.

      It makes good fertilizer tho.
    • by vadius (669387) on Monday February 16, 2004 @12:19PM (#8294465)
      I'm wondering if this would just breed resistance to having body parts susceptible to sonic disruption.

      I bet on Mosquito Slashdot they are thinking, if we started killing humans by ripping out their lungs, maybe in a few generations they might develop a resistance to lung removal.

      Yeah Evolution!

    • IANAE (I am not an entomologist) but I can think of a few ways that you might get resistence. The first being that these sonicators are going to be operated by people, who naturally are somewhat lazy--the devices will tend to be placed and used where they are the easiest for the operator to put them. Mosquitos already have some small ability to differentiate between a good and a bad place to put eggs; this might be a further refinement. Mosquitos that tend to put larvae in places inaccessible to humans w
    • I very much agree with the parent post, about bats being effective and rather fun controllers of adult mosquitos. However, the poster raised the question of how effectively ultrasonic acoustic signals propagate through water. The answer: very effectively.

      I work with ultrasonics (just got done with an experiment about 1/2 hour ago, at 510kHz and 2.25MHz). There's no problem propagating signals of these "medium" frequencies through water for several meters without significant attenuation, up to tens of
  • His patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lady Jazzica (689768) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:26AM (#8292999)
    Here's his patent for this invention:
    Patent 6,298,011: Method for killing mosquito larvae [uspto.gov]

    A short excerpt:

    "Mosquito larvae have internal organs which contain various structures, including a small air bladder. All structures have acoustic resonance, especially underwater bubbles. Since larvae tissues are fragile, simply matching the acoustic resonance of the air bladder causes acute trauma and embolism resulting in death of the mosquito larvae.

    Thus, referring to FIG. 1, an acoustic transducer is immersed in a body of water which is a habitat for mosquito larvae. A depth of immersion of only a few inches is required, as shown in FIG. 1. One or more transducer is preferably connected to an amplifier which in turn is connected to a signal generator for generating a resonant frequency within an octave range ranging from 16 kHz to 32 kHz. The transducer immersed in water is energized for a short period of time. The resultant acoustic resonance resonates with the air bladder of the mosquito larvae, causing it to traumatize surrounding tissue and causes the air bubble to migrate from the thorax of the mosquito through the abdomen, resulting in death to the larvae. An effective resonant frequency is from 16 kHz to 32 kHz, and less than one watt of energy is necessary to start the process. A larger signal generator would be necessary to cover a larger body of water with rapid coverage, or the unit could be effectively moved to various locations in the body of water."
  • by Compunerd (107084) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:34AM (#8293038) Homepage
    ...the biotope. Several places they've tried fiddling with nature to stop plagues, like in denmark, they spilt chemicals on small lakes to stop the mosquitos from sitting on it, drowning them instead. What happened? Small birds were dying, not having enough food. Also, in denmark, they tried to stop birds eating their apples from apple farms, pulling huge nets and shooting birds approaching, discovering the birds really didn't like apple, but the bugs inside them, resulting in a great production loss. And - also - a friend of mine is doing a lot of parachute jumping. They found out that the barn swallow living in the hangar were shitting on their chutes, and started to shoot the birds, resulting in a vast amount of flies and mosquitos etc etc etc.
    Perhaps not fiddle with nature after all?

    roy
    • In some places, mosquitos are not a natural part of the ecosystem, having been inadvertently introduced in bilge-water of ships. That's the case here in Hawaii.

      Other detrimental species have also been introduced by ships, like rats, mice, and of course haoles like me. ;)

      And then someone got the bright idea of shipping in mongoose to control the rats... but rats are nocturnal and mongoose are diurnal... whoops.

    • True. Also, depending on what species are vulnerable to this tech, not just mosquitoes will be vanquished. Here in the Pacific Northwest, we've got salmon troubles, and juvenile salmon need aquatic insects (benthic macroinvertebrates)to survive. If we're wiping out invertebrate fauna indiscriminately, we'll reap more problems. That said, some skeeter control sounds pretty good come June out here in Oregon....
  • by fygment (444210) on Monday February 16, 2004 @09:45AM (#8293102)
    ... by a long shot. This concept first surfaced somewhere in the late seventies. The principle is correct however the implementation is problematic. The device needs to be in proximity to the larva or else acoustic levels have to be high enough that they do affect other insects, fish, etc. As I recall, the intitial experiments worked fine in an aquarium where acoustic properties were ideal for the purpose of concentrating the acoustic energy. (Note: after the blast the larvae keep rising to the surface with all appearance of normal breathing patterns, they just can't breath when they get there.) Not an issue for the storm drain and industrial setting. In the wetland scenario however the method is very inefficient (due to small area coverage) which means a lot of wasted resources (fuel) and disruption (vehicular traffic, etc) just getting the acoustic devices in place.

    • One of the projected effects of global warming is to increase the variability of weather. This means a greater probability of cold snaps in winter, as well as heat waves in summer, cycles such as El Nino driven harder, in addition to generally hotter conditions averaged over the earth.

      Warm-water corals are moving northward along the Atlantic coast of Florida, and (getting slightly back on-topic) it appears likely that malarial mosquitoes will be able to move north right along with them. Move over, West Nil

      • Ague, now called malaria, is native to North America and caused trouble even as far north as Michigan and Ohio. It's also one of the reasons it's been difficult to transplant eagles from Alaska to Florida, the Alaska population is not at all resistant.

        Look at U.S. historical records from the 1800's and realize that the effect that mosquito borne illnesses had.

      • And don't forget the disruption of the Atlantic Conveyor caused by an influx of fresh water, from freshly melted arctic ice. That could cause a small ice age in Europe and eastern North America. We get the best for all worlds: The third world gets growing deserts and the first world gets growing ice fields. And shrinking agricultural fields just about everywhere.
      • About My Sig: So much commentary on that sig of mine (yours being the latest). All offer clarification of a process that is only postulated via inaccurate models (which the authors of those models will hasten to admit). " One of the projected effects of global warming ..." indeed! The mind reels at the blind faith that motivates such comments.

        About Coral: explain the link between the warm water corals and the malarial mosquitoes. Explain what in their environment is causing such a migration and explai
        • So much commentary on that sig of mine (yours being the latest). All offer clarification of a process that is only postulated via inaccurate models (which the authors of those models will hasten to admit).

          And what is wrong with inaccurate (meaning, imperfect) models? To be perfect, a model would have to be the thing that it models. This is impossible, or nearly so. Less than perfect models are still very useful in many cases.

          " One of the projected effects of global warming ..." indeed! The mind reels

  • How loud??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Muad'Dave (255648) on Monday February 16, 2004 @10:47AM (#8293560) Homepage

    Somebody check my math - the storm drain model claims an output of 195 dB referenced to 1 mPa @ 1m. If I did the math right, [using the power formula dB = 10*log(P1/Pref)] that comes out to 31.6 pPa (yes, 31.6 peta Pascals) @ 1m. That's about 313 billion atmospheres! Even using the more conservative 'voltage' formula [dB = 20*log(V1/Vref)] it still only comes out to half the above value. I would expect instant boiling at those amplitudes.

    • What? No, don't be ridiculous. 195 dB ref: 1 mPa is about 10^20 times 1 mPa, which is approximately 10^17 Pa - that's only ~31.6 TeraPascals. Using the Voltage formula, you'd get 10^7 Pa - ~5.6 MegaPascals.

      Those numbers are still pretty spooky, though.
      • Re:How loud??? (Score:3, Informative)

        by rco3 (198978)
        Next question is, which formula is applicable? I think the amplitude version (voltage) is correct, as the pressure is the amplitude of the waveform.

        It's also notable that the power output is supposed to be 400 W. You'd need some serious coupling to the water and a thoroughly resonant cavity, I'd think, to be able to achieve that sort of pressure (5.6 MPa) at that power level - but then, underwater acoustics are not my speciality. I did find the results of some experiments at which suggested a couple of [hearinginnovations.com]

      • Curse those pesky exponents! Of course the voltage formula does not give 1/2 the power formula. Sorry about that...5.6 MPa sounds much more reasonable.

  • by sapbasisnerd (729448) on Monday February 16, 2004 @11:34AM (#8293970)
    Nice idea but somewhat impractical with the possible exception of the storm drain application, in a contained area you have to repeat the treatment at least weekly (and more often would be better) for at least 10 weeks before you break the breeding cycle.

    Something more practical in west nile terms would be a small, timer driven one that could be put in a birdbath for a whole season. The wetland and canal dragged versions are just short of silly.

    The real problem with west nile at least are breeds of mosquitos that tend to prefer urban settings and can (and do) breed in the water trapped in a discarded pop can so all this would do is naturally select for the bugs that tend to use more marginal water sources.

    As much as one would like to one does not want to take these things completely out of the food chain, just keep them away from areas of human habitation.

    There are easier solutions in many cases, our summer place abuts a swamp where we just couldn't get in there with this thing as it's so overgrown, Last year we used one of those CO2 exhaling traps (Mosquito Magnet brand) and it's amazing how well it works, for the first time in living memory we were able to sit outside at dusk without being eaten alive. Changing a propane tank every three weeks and emptying the bag of dead mosquitos (and no other bugs) sure beats slogging through a swamp in hip waders once or twice a week...

  • Cool (Score:5, Funny)

    by presearch (214913) on Monday February 16, 2004 @12:56PM (#8294855)
    I caught Larvasonic last summer, those guys rock.
  • Natural Selection (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Tyreth (523822) on Monday February 16, 2004 @01:06PM (#8294976)
    note: I'm not a neo-Darwinist, or what is generaly known as an evolutionist.

    In this situation we may find that the mosquito gene pool may be diverse enough to contain a small number of mosquito larvae that are not destroyed by these devices (taking into account that other insects are unaffected, this may mean that the margin of error is small). Thus the gene pool will be reduced in eliminating most types of mosquito's except those that can survive. Just as we see most bacteria killed by anti-biotics, but a few immune ones surviving.

    Just thought that would be an interesting side note. I don't know how easy these devices would be to tune them to destroy 'new' types of mosquitos.
  • While I am impressed with the research, the problem is not really a technical one.

    Sure, the devices will be effective with large containers of standing water like lakes and ponds. But most sources of stagnant water come from garbage [cdc.gov], old tires [cdc.gov], and even plants [cdc.gov].

    As the tire is the best man-made nursery for mosquito larvae with its stagnant water and ample shade, simply throwing away used tires correctly will do more to eliminate the mosquito threat than these devices. In fact, the Asian Tiger mosquito is

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