Mozzie Monitors: May 2019 Update

To date, the Mozzie Monitors programme has successfully run for a full year. In that time, the programme has collected a multitude of data on mosquito populations, particularly here in South Australia. It has not only proven that citizen science can be a valuable tool for conducting widespread mosquito surveillance in an Australian context, but it has also pioneered to create an important foundation for the programmes next stage.

An overview of the past year…

Over the past year, the Mozzie Monitors programme has come a long way, both in its development and in its amount of data collected:

These great achievements and findings have included:

  • Collecting a whopping 9,529 mosquitoes from Jun 10th, 2018 to May 25th, 2019.
  • Collecting data from 127 individual people from 31 different suburbs across Australia.
  • The peak month for the collection was January, which was also the hottest month (Figure 1).
  • Mozzie Monitors collected almost 4 times more mosquitoes than previous professional programmes for mosquito surveillance in South Australia (Figure 2).
  • These efforts contributed to discover new information about different communities of mosquitoes that surround our houses throughout the year.

During this time, Seamus Doherty, a then honours student and team member of the programme, also conducted his research on Mozzie Monitors, helping to create and better understand the programmes more technical foundations. Seamus’ research involved investigating methods of communication and how the programmes disseminates data, as well as researching different methods for trapping mosquitoes for citizen science use. His work also looked at testing how different background colours effect mosquito clarity in images, examining the accuracy and feasibility of remote mosquito identification using images, and finally analysing the programmes practicality and quality of data captured overall. This research has since lead to improvements in the programme, including updating our beloved tip card.

Analysing the data collected so far, the Mozzie Monitors programme has also shown that:

The most abundant mosquito species were:

  • Aedes notoscriptus – It is known as an essential domestic pest species in Southern Australia. It is a crucial vector of good heartworm, and laboratory studies have shown its potential to carry Murray Valley encephalitis and to transmit Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses.
  • Culex quinquefasciatus – This species is the most likely to bite humans indoors and outdoors, besides causing nuisance with its “buzzing” in human ears. Laboratory studies have shown the potential to transmit Murray Valley encephalitis and to carry Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses.
  • Culex molestus – This species is known as a human biter and can be a domestic pest indoors. Laboratory studies have also shown its potential to transmit Murray Valley encephalitis.

Whilst the least abundant mosquitoes were:

  • Aedes vigilax
  • Aedes camptorhynchus
  • Aedes alboannulatus
  • Anopheles annulipes
  • Coquillettidia linealis
  • Culex annulirostris
  • Culex australicus
  • Culex globocoxitus
  • Toxorhynchites speciosus
  • Tripteroides atripes
  • Tripteroides marksae

Additionally, data captured through the programme has been able to show seasonal signals and abundance of mosquitoes across the year in detail:

Figure 1. The graph shows the number of mosquitoes collected by Mozzie Monitors throughout the first year of the program. The abundance of mosquitoes raises according to the rise of temperature, reaching its peak during summertime.

Whilst it has also showcased the benefits of citizen science compared with traditional methods of data capture on mosquito collections:

Figure 2. Comparison between a citizen science and professional data collection of mosquitoes. The citizen science program (Mozzie Monitors) contributed with almost 4 times more mosquitoes than previously captured by professional mosquito surveillance efforts (Urban wetland monitoring).

Finally, how can we forget the hundreds of great photos of mosquitoes sent in by our dedicated Mozzie Monitors over the past year. See some of our all time favourites below:  

What the future holds for Mozzie Monitors

You may be asking yourself “What happens now that the program has ended?”.

As some of you may already know, the last 12 months has served as a trial of the programme, and only marks the end of the first phase. This coming September, we will be aiming to start new trials, comparing our ‘trap system’ with a new system involving a mobile phone app. This new development will be led by our PhD student Larissa Braz Sousa, and will be happening in Adelaide, Sydney and Broome.

Keep an eye both on here and on our Mozzie Monitors and HEHP Facebook pages for new updates!

Looking even further into the future, a pilot project will be run in Brazil sometime in 2021 to compare the abundance of mosquitoes collected by citizen scientists on a Brazilian island. The Brazilian version of Mozzie Monitors will be named ‘Monitores de Mosquitoes’. As mentioned above, you will all be able to follow our discoveries from both here and on our social media pages.

To all of our Mozzie Monitors – You’ve all been amazing! We thank you all for your continued effort and dedication to the programme.

P.s. If you’re wondering: yes, you can and should keep your traps.

The Mozzie Monitors Team – Craig, Stephen, Seamus and Larissa.