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Anti-mosquito vacuum on trial

New traps lure insects to their doom by pretending to be humans, but the real test comes with the first rains

NEW anti-mosquito ‘vacuum cleaners’ are being tested in a village in the Camargue.

Villagers in Sambuc near Arles have long been plagued with the insects, but previous attempts to stop them in the Camargue have proved expensive and damaged the local eco-system.

The assistant mayor of Arles, Philippe Martinez, said the latest idea, a trap which uses carbon dioxide to lure mosquitoes into a tube from which they cannot escape, would really be put to the test at the end of August, when the insects are at their worst.

“We can already eat on terraces, but for the moment it’s difficult to tell if it’s the anti-mosquito devices or the drought,” said Mr Martinez, who added that the first rains would provide the real test, when dining outside normally became impossible.

Previous experiments to eradicate mosquitoes have involved large projects across the natural park.

Authorities in the area have tried to tackle the problem using a natural insecticide BTI on insect larvae.

While the method was effective at reducing the mosquito population, it had unwanted consequences on the food chain in the area around the villages of Salin-de-Giraud and Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône where it was being tested and was stopped.

Jean Jalbert, the director of Tour du Valat, the group carrying out the latest experiment said their new tack was to limit the war on mosquitoes to urban areas.

Eleven traps made by the company Techno Bam have been set up in the village. They emit a level of carbon dioxide and sweat odours similar to humans to attract the mosquitos in a 60m radius, who then venture inside, never to return.

The co-founder of Techno Bam, Pierre Bellagambi, said the ‘vacuums’ were more environmentally-friendly and less costly than other treatments.

A smaller test of the devices at the Tour du Valat centre removed 70% of mosquitos, compared to the 80% figure for BTI treatment, however the latter costed €800,000 a year.

Photo: A Techno Bam urban mosquito 'vacuum'

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