The US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife office and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife have been working with other conservation partners to understand and apply novel mosquito control techniques in Hawaii to help maintain and expand dwindling populations of Hawaii’s native forest birds. These forest birds are severely threatened by avian malaria, a disease primarily vectored by the non-native mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus. Working with various partners, the Hawaii Team has reviewed emerging vector control techniques/technologies that can be applied at a landscape scale. The Hawaii Teams current focus is the development of a mass rearing pipeline for C. quinquefasciatus infected with Wolbachia, a bacterium known to cause cytoplasmic incompatibility (i.e. sterility after mating). Releases of these mass reared mosquitoes will then be used to reduce populations of wild C. quinquefasciatus in forest bird refugia using an integrated pest management approach with emphasis on the Insect Incompatibility Technique (ITT Wolbachia). Although capacity will be developed for the mass rearing and release of Wolbachia infected C. quinquefasciatus, management can be modified easily to incorporate more efficient technologies for mass rearing and release as they are developed and approved to address other non-native mosquito species known to be vectors of public health diseases in Hawaii.
In 2016, the management approach was further refined and reviewed at multiple workshops, including one co-organized by the Hawaii Team and the Hawaii Exemplary State Foundation. This workshop was convened in order to represent and review the technologies as well as develop collaborations with governmental and non-governmental organizations within and outside of Hawaii. The outcome of the workshop further reinforced the necessity and feasibility of C. quinquefaciatus control in Hawaii, as well as the control of other mosquito species (workshop report found at: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/hisc/files/2017/02/Report-on-Mosquito-Free-Workshop-v42-1.pdf). Following this workshop in early 2017, the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, an inter-departmental collaboration of all of Hawaii’s government state agencies passed resolution 17-2 “Supporting Evaluation and Implementation of Technologies for Landscape-Scale Control of Mosquitoes, With a Focus On Mitigating Both Human and Wildlife Health Risks).
The Hawaii Team continues to partner and collaborate with various government and non-governmental institutions, which include: the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawaii Department of Health, the Hawaii Exemplary State Foundation, the American Bird Conservancy, Revive and Restore, Verily, the Nature Conservancy, the Hawaii Conservation Alliance, the Hawaii Invasive Species Council, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Department of Defense, the US National Park Service, and the US Geological Service.
This group is currently seeking funding to assess Cytoplasmic Incompatibility in Hawaii strains of C. quinquefasciatus, A. aegypti, and A. albopictus by the research teams. The Hawaii strains of these species will then be introgressed with the various lab strains to develop Hawaii specific Wolbachia infected strains of the species. Additionally, funding will be used for a DLNR planner position that will help to expedite work in Hawaii.
State of Hawai’i Department of Health has some great resources about limiting mosquito habitat in your backyard.