Genetically-modified mosquitoes have created a public safety emergency on Blacktip Island. (photo by Vlieg)
In a case of pest control gone wrong, genetically-altered mosquitoes released on Blacktip Island to combat the native mosquito population have instead mutated into giant insects now threatening the island’s wellbeing.
“All the experts said this’d work,” Blacktip Island Public Safety chief Rocky Shore said. “All the run-throughs tested to specs. We sterilized the mosquitoes with radiation, then turned them loose to mate with the locals. Our mosquito numbers should’ve dropped 75-80 percent.
“Instead, they’re breeding like rabbits, and getting bigger each generation,” Shore said. “Gamma rays were the fly in the ointment. The lab folks saved money using gammas instead of the standard beta rays. We’re still tracking who signed off on that.”
The resulting mosquito swarms have island residents on edge.
“Some of these suckers are the size of peregrine falcons,” Eagle Ray Cove owner Rich Skerritt said. “And bright green. We’re telling our guests to not piss them off and to stay inside after dark.”
The plan’s critics were more vocal.
“We warned this could happen,” said Tiperon University-Blacktip entomology professor Belinda Graysby. “It’s classical biological pest control gone wonky. Like cane toads in Australia and mongooses in Hawaii, the solution’s worse than the original problem. This could make Blacktip uninhabitable. And yes, it’s ‘mongooses.’”
Others worry about the mosquitoes’ impact on island wildlife.
“These mossies’ve wiped out the island’s birds,” Blacktip Island Audubon Society president Sula Beakins said. “And the iguanas. They’ve moved on to feral cats, but what will they prey on once the cats are gone?”
Sports enthusiasts, meanwhile, have embraced the growing mosquito threat.
“We hang fresh steaks outside to draw ‘em in,” Blacktip Skeet Club president B.C. Flote said. “Then we break out the shotguns, and when the skeeters come over the tree line, we all open fire.
“We give the kids tennis rackets to swat any little ones that get through, too,” Flote said. “It’s good family fun, and it helps the community.”
Concerns remain, however, about how large the mosquitoes will grow and their impact on island businesses.
“Used to be, a light breeze’d keep the bugs down,” Eagle Ray Cove’s Skerritt said. “These things, though, they’ll fly in anything up to 20, 25 knots. They just about dragged off two guests yesterday. Small children, you understand, but the threat’s real. And growing.”