Ultimate WMD: laser mosquito zapper

Who doesn’t hate mosquitoes? For centuries humans have had to endure this pest, and we started to win the war when DDT came out. Of course DDT isn’t allowed any more, but now you can kill these little buggers with a new gadget.  It’s like Star Wars technology for vampire defense. I want one, preferably with a USB port so I can watch the body count on my PC. It will probably be a few years before the digitized ghost of Billy Mays hawks one on TV though. Still, I want one.

bzzzzz...pfft! - click for a larger image

Here’s some background from Information Week:

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the project has been dubbed “WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction.” It aims to kill mosquitoes with lasers to prevent the spread of malaria, which mosquitoes can transmit.

The anti-mosquito laser system is being funded by Intellectual Ventures, a company run by Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former CTO.

Kare said that “WMD: Weapon of Mosquito Destruction” isn’t a term used internally to refer to the project. He calls the project “the Photonic Fence.” “When we’re being lighthearted, we call it ‘the bug zapper,'” he explained.

As its name suggests, the Photonic Fence prototype consists of two posts that direct laser fire at mosquitoes that fly between them. Kare said the research team is still optimizing its targeting algorithm. “But we definitely can detect them and aim a beam at them,” he said.

When that happens, the mosquitoes literally get toasted.

From the intellectualventureslab.com website: This illustration shows one way our “photonic fence” mosquito laser system could be used to set up a perimeter defense, protecting a single building. The red “fence” shows a border that mosquitoes can’t pass through, but it is safe for everything else. There is no top coverage because mosquitoes don’t fly very high.

Photonic Fence Concept Rendering


Here’s the videos of mosquitoes meeting a well deserved death by laser fire:

Here’s the live demonstration setup at the 2010 TED conference:

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128 thoughts on “Ultimate WMD: laser mosquito zapper

  1. This will work until the Disney feature animated film that makes Mosquitos out to be cute defenseless insects only trying to survive, then we’ll have to have targeting systems that distinguish between malaria carrying ones and disease-free mosquitos.

  2. I see some difficulties implementing this over irregular ground with some changing vegetation.

    Semi-seriously, you could wind up generating the “stealth mosquito” in the same way we’re on our way to creating super bugs.

  3. The mosquito lasers can target female mosquitoes specifically, and just kill the females. This makes sense because it is the females that spread malaria, dengue, yellow fever, etc.

    But feminists are unhappy with the selective killing of females, and may use their influence at court to shut the technology down. More deadly than the male, always.

  4. Or, for about 100,000x less expense, you could spray a small amount of DDT. Either way though…

  5. ‘Nathan Myhrvold, Microsoft’s former CTO.’

    What ever will they do when they get a bug in the system?

    Maybe taking debugging a tad bit too far?

    I wonder, when this think malfunction will it turn the beams blue?

    Funny, every time a bug finds a way through the fence, the system overloads.

    BTW won’t the nasty little bugs just fly above and over the fence?

  6. Animal Cruelty if you ask me; about on a par with putting a mouse in a pot on the stove and watching him dance when his feet get hot.

    But speaking of lasers systems, this mosquito getter seems about as practical as laser implosion thermo-nuclear energy. You first catch your mosquito, and then stick him(er) on the head of a pin with black wax, so you can zap him(er) with the laser. The corresponding fusion energy trick to sticking the skito on the pin, is to manufacture “fuel pellets”.
    These are fancy multilayer perfectly spherical hollow balls, that get squished by lasers all around them. Then you brush away the debris, and stick another sphere down; maybe black wax works there too.

    People think the fuel is the Helium/tritium mixture used to blow up the balloons; but no the pellets themsleves are the actual fuel, and it takes a damn side more energy to make one of those pellets than you ever get out of the crushed gases inside the pellet when they decide to fuse.

    So I predict a great future for the laser skita getta; it will surely be the malaria cure of the future; just like fusion is the energy of the future; and always will be.

  7. whoa! now that is cool, and I want one.

    that puff of smoke wouldn’t be aerosol soot or something? and are mosquitos made out of carbon? I don’t want these banned because they cause global warming or something….

  8. Creative – WMD – Weapon of Mosquito Destruction.
    “Build a Better Mosquito Trap and the World will Beat a Path to Your Door.”

    Will be interesting to see if such technology can ever be made to be safe, effective and delivered at a competitive price.

    Meanwhile, the World Health Organziation re-evaluated decades of science research and is now promoting very successful interior wall spraying with DDT. Beyond the high mosquito kill rate, DDT appears to have a unique ability to repel mosquitos from even entering a sprayed building. Those that do enter leave at a very high percentage rate. Those that stay tend to cling to walls at some point, thereby eliminating them from the gene pool.

    So, with cost-effective spraying, enormous drops in Malaria death rates have been obtained. And that is crutial, since most people probably don’t realize the number who get Malaria can reach a Half Billion People or more per year. That is an enormous problem, concentrated mostly in poor areas around the world.

    Fortunately the World Health Organization’s interior spray program is having significant results, where it isn’t blocked by those who are not up to date with the safety and effectiveness of this life-saving program.

    World Health Organization Program Link:
    http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2006/pr50/en/index.html

  9. There is no top coverage because mosquitoes don’t fly very high.

    They will quickly evolve to fly higher is my bet. Or crawl on the ground.

    But, nice try.

  10. Isn’t this the equivalent of usine a sledgehammer to kill a fly. As someone already noted, ddt should do the trick.

  11. sounds like a cool tool. will nature rebound by a genetically enhanced mosquito with silvered wings and body? will we be expected to “eat what we shoot” ???? Will roast skeeters ever compete with chocolate covered ants in the way of epicurian delights.

  12. 1DandyTroll;
    What ever will they do when they get a bug in the system?>>

    Funny, but the first bug actually was a bug. Admiral Grace Hopper of the US Navy (deceased) started her career programming one of the first computers for the Navy. I think she was 3rd person in the world to program a computer, so a real pioneer. They were getting arithmetic errors and could find no flaw in the code, so concluded it was a hardware problem. They began going through the switches, which were relays housed in cans about the size of a soup can. In one of the relays she found that a moth had crawled between the contacts and been killed when they tried to close. The contacts couldn’t close as a result, and caused the error.

    She took the moth, placed it on the open page of her journal and put a piece of clear tape over it. It was on display at the Smithsonian for the longest time open to that page (might still be for all I know). Written clearly at the bottom of the page is the date and the words:

    “first bug found”

  13. Interesting technology but could be very expensive in areas of the world where it could do the most good. Even electricity is in short supply there. I still prefer the DDT approach. I read that the old zappers so many people have in their yards do not attract the harmful mosquitoes, just the beneficial ones.

    Just wondering how effective it would be at keeping the door to door salespeople from stepping onto our property.

  14. I’m not sure this is a such a good idea. The guys in the following video had a fence like that and all it did was annoy a really big mosquito:

  15. I wonder if they have ever tried these in e. g. Lapland. To protect a reasonable sized house there would require a firing rate of tens, if not hundreds of pulses per second. Sounds about as practical as an ABM system.

  16. I wonder if this a topic to be handled on a climate sceptics website?

    REPLY: and I wonder if you’ve ever read the masthead?

    “Commentary on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news by Anthony Watts”

  17. I notice in the first clip a bit of smoke is generated when the wings are toasted. I am sure some group will rant about the extra greenhouse gasses emitted by frying these little buggers, not to mention all the carbon generated to power the lasers.

  18. This has some potential. Combined with recent skeeter attractants like they have in the LP powered traps to lure them to the laser chamber, it could end up commercially viable. The terrain and vegetation leakage would be a problem guarding a perimeter.

    We have the ultimate bug zapper, a healthy bat population. They are cool to watch in the floodlights as they run sorties and pull incredible stunts. Oh crap, they emit CO2 as well. Never mind.

  19. If it smokes a mosquito I’d imagine that could hurt.
    A manual derivative would be amusing for the more sporting.

  20. This will kill more than only mosquitoes. It seems it can kill anything with wings. That will include dragonflies and bees too.

  21. If energy is applied in a pinpointed way, forming a evenly distributed pattern, it makes atoms get closer one to the other. (heated points surrounded by cooler areas). This is an old method used long ago by jibaros pronounced “heevahrohs”) indians of the amazon jungle, for shrinking their enemies’ heads (of course, after removing, the skull) by applying heated river sand in and over. (Unfortunately..☺..they do not longer use this technique as they are now fully dedicated to write in blogs like these using their satellite connections to the web).

  22. Anthony

    You closed the post on the Baltic Sea Ice because of the puerile comments.

    I wanted to post this:-

    The man that does not make a mistake does nothing.

    Your blog is tremendous and has manage to influence the debate through the dark times, when the main stream media would not properly cover or investigate the claims made about AGW. You and others were right all along so don’t let em get to you.

    Finally in order to remain on topic my advice to you, for what it is worth, is to follow that other great American and “float like a butterfly and sting like a bee”

    Have good weekend and get some of that stuff from the Napa Valley down your throat.

    Take care.

  23. …in 2035, the mosquito race has been relentlessly hunted to near extinction by the machines. Hunter/killer laser drones scour the charred ruins of the mosquito’s last stronghold, the Himalayan glaciers, in search of the last vestiges of Culicidaeity.

    Victory for the machines seems close at hand, but one mosquito begins to change the face of the war. He unites the mosquitoes against the machines and brings hope to the last remaining mosquitoes on Earth. For the first time, mosquitoes believe they can win the war against Skylasernet.

    The machines send one of their own back in time to make sure this mosquito is never born.

    “The Termosquito”

    A James Hansen film.

  24. “Steve Schaper (10:15:47) :

    Can it be adjusted to get flies, too?”

    Can it be adjusted to get Jehovah Witnesses?

  25. “Mr Lynn (10:11:40) :

    Aren’t lasers dangerous to human eyes? How do they avoid them?”

    Spot on! And exposure to radiation from the lasers will cause cancer.

  26. Gary Hladik (10:54:47) :

    Forbidden Planet was possibly the only movie where Leslie Nielsen had a “serious” role. Although it was a good movie for the time, I can see why he went to comedy.

  27. Given my coming relocation to a very mosquito prone area (interior Alaska), I’m a fan of anything that kills the little brutes. However, laser based mosquito killing seems impractical given the need to supply power, its exposure to the elements (e.g., keeping all lenses clean, etc), and deployment considerations. Optical interference could be another problem … for example, I have been bitten many times under quite foggy conditions.

    Unfortunately, the two most successful methods to control mosquitoes have politically incorrect elements … DDT (as mentioned above), and ironically (given a frequent subject of this blog), CO2 traps. CO2 traps are by far the most successful way to control them near your home … they are basically lures that can clear out a sizable area from the little blood suckers.

  28. We love you Anthony!!

    Re: the Baltic thingy.
    Pedantic nonsense you should ignore, but sometimes people just want your site to be very accurate so that some folks (you know who) can’t complain. I know, it probably seems like picky stuff from your end, but I’m sure that some of it is well intended. If you think that it’s picky, please just ignore it.

    Thanks for all that you do!!

  29. Now awaiting the eco-friendly low-carbon version using solar cells with recyclable rechargeable batteries…

    As opposed to a real natural solution like putting up a bat house. “A single brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour. They are a great natural pest controller.”

    Granted that idea is not as sexy as a “Laser Beam Curtain of DEATH,” but still…

  30. More than likely it is steam rather than smoke as the mozzie is being boiled rather than fried. Since water vapour is the most important greenhouse gas, it will doubtless fall foul of the CAGW people, who are probably all rather keen on malaria as a good way to keep population growth in check…. (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    The wings do disintegrate rather well though, don’t they?

  31. “There is no top coverage because mosquitoes don’t fly very high”.

    THAT’S NOT TRUE.

    Spend some time in watch towers 30 meters above ground level and I can confirm from personal observation that bloodthirsty Mosquito’s go where people go.

    I am interested though in a more powerful system to zap the tax collector and other uninvited guests!

  32. My neighbor’s yipping-yapping dog is more annoying and pernicious than any mosquito (anopheles included). Wonder if those things be callibrated to shoot through a cedar fence.

  33. On closer inspection the link I posted offers a guide to things that are caused by global warming. Sorry. Still entertaining however.

  34. This so wrong on many levels. Shouldn’t we be trying to preserve the populations as they are, and maintain the species? I say “All species deserve equal protection under the law!”

    This is a travesty! I mean Polar bears are cute and cuddly until they grow up and want to eat you…It’s just not fair…

  35. “Paddy (11:25:09) :

    “Mr Lynn (10:11:40) :

    Aren’t lasers dangerous to human eyes? How do they avoid them?”

    Spot on! And exposure to radiation from the lasers will cause cancer.”
    ——————–
    Just close your eyes and you will survive

  36. Nit pickers are out in force today.

    Hmmmm … perhaps a nit-picker zapper?

    The good news … it’s Friday. Party hearty tonight and let’s give Anthony a break so the man can sleep in tomorrow (or try to).

  37. Laser-armed bats!

    *koff*

    Or, since mosquitoes hunt by homing on our exhalations, we could just increase the atmospheric CO2 level until the li’l pests die of frustration because they can’t track us down.

    I’ll go work on my Nobel acceptance speech, now…

  38. Have they thought this one through? ….. Children and small animals?

    “Oy! You could have someone’s eye out with that!”

  39. I don’t care if this would work on mosquitoes, or flies. Would it work on cockroaches? I’m talking about the big, mutant-ninja cockroaches like they have in Texas. The kind that sit on top of the water faucet in the bathroom and HISS at everything that walks in. The ones the dogs are afraid of. If it would work on them, then we have a winner.

    And it doesn’t matter if this product takes out bees, as long as it is turned off during the day. Bees don’t fly at night.

  40. I love the smell of fried mosquitoes in the morning. …. Smells like …. victory.

    (With apologies to Robert Duval)

  41. Jonah Goldberg at NRO linked to this story under the title: “Ground-Based Laser Mosquito Lancing”

    Of course there was NO HAT TIP to the person who e-mailed him the link.

    [snif]

  42. I I was David Brin I’d be annoyed that I wasn’t getting the credit for this idea. He proposed it in his SF novel “Earth” IIRC. Even mentioned the “starwars -SDI” spinoff aspect.

    Mind you David Brin is a lunatic warmographer as I found out from his website yesterday. I also find much of his SF unreadable.

  43. I perfectly remember a sleepless August night in Novgorod, Russia, in the apartment on the 6th floor of the multistory building. There was no air conditioning, and we would suffocate without opening the balcony door. Mosquitoes were coming in hordes through that door.

    Same on the third floor in St. Petersburg.
    Same in some multistory Mediterranean hotels.

    These bugs can fly very high — maybe they evolve and acquire this ability around multistory buildings.

  44. If “Mosquitos don’t fly that high” then why not a block wall with a gate or chain link with a net?

    Maybe it’s like the Orbitz commercial, “Why didn’t you mail the check?” “Because; we have a HOVERCRAFT”.

    Why not a wall? Because; we have LASERS!

  45. And just what will the Bats eat???? Hmmm???? This is like the idea of spreading fertilizer in the oceans, seeding the higher clouds with ash, putting a stop to emitting CO2, and all the other crackput ideas humans come up with to control mother nature.

    On the up side, there are a few “carbon life forms” that I would like to photo shop onto that tray so I can fry their a**.

  46. Oh this is practical… and safe! Just what kind of lasers will these be? I guess they’re solar powered, too?

    So, let have a look at the Users Manual:

    1. Clear the land of ALL vegetation and blockages (trees, shrubs, plants, weeds, fences, houses, rocks, dirt piles) and grade surface to within a 0.003% grade variation to maintain an effective line of sight between the towers.
    2. Provide all occupants with protective eyewear and instruct them to always quickly walk directly to and from the structure—NEVER loiter or look directly at a laser tower. Protective ear-wear may be necessary.
    3. Operate system from dawn to daylight and dusk until night (Anopheles sp. flying time). In the event of a power outage, system may require 60 minutes to reboot. As the laser light is invisible, be sure to check the functionality every 30 minutes. You know it’s working when there is a pervasive smell of burnt insects, singed animal hide, and human hair.
    4. In the event of system error, malfunction or breakdown, contact our service department at the toll-free number. If no phone service is available, mail your request for service appointment or drive to nearest city. Please be aware that we will need 2 to 4 weeks to respond.

  47. Re: Ben (Mar 5 10:27),

    if they don’t make money killing mosquitoes, they can always turn up the juice and turn it into the ultimate perimeter security fence – I’m sure a fair number of government departments would just love one of those..

  48. Anthony, thanks for entertaining us almost every day. But don’t waste time doing that if there are important climate issues to be worked on.
    The pedants may well just be AGW supporters, so ignore them. Before commenting they could have checked the other comments first.
    If you feel like fixing errors, I think it would be fine to acknowledge the first notification of an error and delete the rest completely so they don’t clutter the record.

  49. That video reminded me of old war movies, with ME109s or Zeroes going down trailing smoke. All they needed were the right sound effects or tiny parachutes.

  50. Anthony, this story is good for a chuckle. Unfortunately, there is a sombre side to it. DDT was correctly banned for spraying on crops since (if I am correctly informed) its metabolite DDE concentrates in raptorial birds at the top of the food chain, leading to fragile eggshells. However, DDT spraying to combat the mosquito vector of malaria involved only spraying on the inner walls of houses. This killed or repelled mosquitos and did not involve significant outdoor DDT exposure. The stability of this compound was also beneficial in this context. But the anti-DDT crusade led to obstruction of its use in malaria control. It is estimated that tens of millions of people died as a result, mostly in that Third World that Greens are always agonising about. Eventually DDT was judged acceptable for this purpose once more. And Greens indignantly declare that they never banned DDT. Literally that is true. But they obstructed its use in other ways. Aid donors would only supply other insecticides – which didn’t work. Loans were made dependent on non-use of DDT. The whole affair is scandalous. See Apoorva Mandavilli, DDT Returns, in Nature Medicine 27 July 2006.

  51. The lasers in DVD writers should be powerful enough to use on mosquitoes. Just need some way to aim, and to discriminate between targets.

    Never mind “houseflies”, I want something to wear on my hat that snuffs those ########### black flies.

  52. @davidmhoffer (10:51:04) ‘Funny, but the first bug actually was a bug.’

    I don’t know, personally I don’t find it at all funny when people assume too much.

    But sure, dude, I bet you’re the only one on this whole planet, in your mind, that read the history books. Personally I must have been too deep into the code. Now, that’s funny. :p

  53. Leon Brozyna (12:19:25) :

    “Nit pickers are out in force today.”

    I would ignore the nit-pickers.
    Maybe they are a part of the announced AGW assault on us?

    A nitpicker seldom reads the real content of a story.
    The comma’s , the spelling, footers and headers, is the important thing.

    To be ignored, me thinks.

  54. They can fly higher than the shield, but then again, how would they know to fly over it?

    I imagine it would wreak havoc on my honeybees, but if it could target just mosquitos, yellowjackets, wasps, hornets, cabbage loopers, and flying ants/termites I’d be a happy happy man.

    Can you imagine what would happen if it smoked a hawk??

    Rick

  55. David Elder:
    Consider how post WWII farmers saturated their barnyards with DDT, and did not kill off their chickens. Nor is there large numbers of DDT related cancers, even in the generation that was raised on those farms. We are more susceptible to cancer as we age, and no DDT/cancer link?

    DDT and raptor eggs was pure hokum. (T’was the bounty on the birds that done it.)

  56. King Lear as actually performed once with an impromptu line:

    LEAR …What is your study?

    EDGAR How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.

    LEAR Skeeters and sech?

    EDGAR [totally speechless]

  57. I laughed but then I pondered.

    Is this for real?

    Why would anybody set up those laser walls when they could hang up nets that are cheaper and need no energy supply?

    Why not spray DDT on the building’s interior walls when it is cheaper and needs no energy supply?

    The videos are funny, but this is a joke, isn’t it? Or am I missing something?

    Richard

  58. davidmhoffer (10:51:04) : “Funny, but the first bug actually was a bug. Admiral Grace Hopper of the US Navy (deceased) started her career programming one of the first computers for the Navy.”

    I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve read this story several times and only now do I see the humor in having the first “bug” discovered by someone named Grace Hopper.

  59. Rick (13:52:53) :

    “I imagine it would wreak havoc on my honeybees…”

    Dont be too sure about that. Remember that this is a laser.

    It can measure range and bearing to the target. And just as a camera today can measure the area of the target, and the range, it can calculate how big a target is.

    Rest asure, the software will be ably to have a “size-window”…Dont zap it if its larger than so and so….

    Honeybees saved…. And so are humans….and eyes…. as long as the eye doesnt have wings, and fly all by itself.

  60. @David Elder
    The reason that DDT was banned for crop dusting is the quick ineffectiveness of the pesticide, use skyrockets quickly when used, and leaves harmful insects untouched. The result was that eg in Tanzania huge DDT stockpiles were left unused.
    The only evidence for the thinning of eggshells is based on a controversial chicken egg experiment. Standard real pollution policy led to the reemergence of the pelican and the eagle.

    “Silent Spring” is a myth.

  61. 1DandyTroll (13:36:34) :
    @davidmhoffer (10:51:04) ‘Funny, but the first bug actually was a bug.’
    I don’t know, personally I don’t find it at all funny when people assume too much.
    But sure, dude, I bet you’re the only one on this whole planet, in your mind, that read the history books. Personally I must have been too deep into the code. Now, that’s funny. :p>>

    Not having read the history books myself, I would not know what they say. I only know the story directly from the Admiral.

    Your apology is accepted.

  62. Phillep Harding (14:07:28) :

    “DDT and raptor eggs was pure hokum. (T’was the bounty on the birds that done it.)”

    It wasn’t. I was there when it happened. It took thirty years for the raptors to recover in Sweden. And they were protected. No bounties.

  63. “The only evidence for the thinning of eggshells is based on a controversial chicken egg experiment. Standard real pollution policy led to the reemergence of the pelican and the eagle.”

    Sorry but no. There was extensive research on raptors in Sweden which showed the egg-thinning effect. When DDE disappeared from the environment egg thickness went back to normal.

  64. davidmhoffer (10:25:33) :

    “that puff of smoke wouldn’t be aerosol soot or something? ”

    What appears to be smoke is actually the spirit of the newly deceased skeeter winging it’s way to mosquito heaven. :-) Well that’s what it looks like!

  65. I can just hear the chatter between the mosquitos now:

    “Red Leader, this is Gold Five. Lost Tiree, lost Dutch.”
    “I copy, Gold Five.”
    “They came at us from behind….”

  66. I would have thought the biomass of mosquitoes would be a food source for some higher order predator(s) in the food chain.

    If the mosquito is zapped – which species does get to eat lunch?

  67. It was interesting to read the comments on this new mozzie-zapper folly and especially the DDT diversions. Like climate, the DDT story is complicated and it was never as simple as ‘DDT bad, ban DDT good’ (substitute CO2 for DDT if you find this difficult to understand). DDT is too broad spectrum and too persistent for most of the systems we used it in, and its breakdown products are not good, but DDT is just a chemical. The problem was the way that we used it as a solution for all insect problems (and dumped what we didn’t want with no thought of what might happen). Our ‘solution’ – to ban it completely was just as numbskulled. Perhaps the real problem is that we (i.e. people) tend to treat problems as simple black and white dichotomies – a bizarre view of the World in my view.

  68. Bernie (10:39:16) :
    Isn’t this the equivalent of usine a sledgehammer to kill a fly. As someone already noted, ddt should do the trick.

    The sledgehammer will also do the trick.
    But without the advantage of using much more energy and material than DDT does.
    And killing huge amount of insects doesn’t seem as disastrous as some people make it seem — remember, only a few decades ago we were covering large areas with DDT and nobody seems to be predicting anything with as much of an effect as that had.

  69. kadaka (11:43:32) :

    “….As opposed to a real natural solution like putting up a bat house. “A single brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in one hour. They are a great natural pest controller.”

    Granted that idea is not as sexy as a “Laser Beam Curtain of DEATH,” but still…”

    Oh I do not know about that. I think it is kind of neat watching the bats doing “aerobatic” flying in the evenings and at barbeques watch the ladies run screaming when the bats dive bomb the bugs hanging around they heads.

    I am the one who gets dragged into friends houses to rescue the bats trapped in the living room. At least I now have my friends trained not to kill bats or black snakes.

  70. What Stacey (11:18:09) said, re the Baltic sea ice thread, and in general. Since you closed that thread, let me just say this:

    I agree with her that your contribution is enormous, and all of us, even the naysayers and nit-pickers appreciate the fantastic (and fascinating) job you are doing.

    Sorry to have caught you on a bad day. You and the moderators have generally responded graciously to grammatical and spelling corrections, so I deemed it OK to point out the ‘itsy’ error.

    Let me add that I’d be willing to help out in a proof-reading capacity, and I’m sure many other nit-picking fans would, too. It would be an honor to contribute in even a small way to so vital an enterprise. The only problem I could see would be keeping up with the fast and furious pace you have set. There’s a reason why magazines take a while. Regrettably the immediacy of the Internet creates a sense of urgency that works against the old rule of having a fresh eye look over copy before shipping it.

    At least I didn’t complain about ‘England’.

    Now back to your regularly-scheduled thread.

    /Mr Lynn

  71. kwik (13:50:38) :

    . . . A nitpicker seldom reads the real content of a story.
    The comma’s , the spelling, footers and headers, is the important thing.

    To be ignored, me thinks.

    Some of us do read the content.

    And we know what the plural of ‘comma’ is.

    Ignore us at your peril! ;-)

    /Mr Lynn

  72. Maybe the presence of this laser zapper miight finally pave the way for the US to drill for oil in ANWR. My understanding is that oil drilling there would disrupt the caribou there and we must not do it. However, I’ve heard that mosquitoes can take up to half a pint of blood from those caribous daily. Mosquitoes or oil drilling on less than 2% of the land. I’ll take drilling.

  73. This gizmo seems like a ridiculous waste of enterprise, because it’ll result in a product that no one but the military could afford or want: Sean Peake’s (13:14:54) picture of the User Manual is probably pretty close to the mark.

    On the other hand, building toys for the military is not a bad way to make a few bucks. . .

    Re the claim that mosquitos don’t fly high enough to get over this ‘laser fence’, that’s been pretty well debunked above, though it may well depend on the species. Certainly I’ve seen bats in the treetops zig-zagging after something, probably skeeters.

    Mosquitos are a problem in many (most?) parts of the USA, but malaria is not, though it has been claimed that it was prevalent in Philadelphia in colonial times (when according to the warmists it was colder than now). Where did it go? It’s hard to imagine that better sanitation (draining swamps, etc.) could have done the job alone. It’s a question for an epidemiologist. Maybe the disease depends on a sufficient reservoir in the human population. . .

    /Mr Lynn

  74. Mr Lynn,

    Malaria was a problem in the US through the 19th and into the early 20th century. The man who invented air-conditioning in 1842, an American physician named In 1842, John Gorrie, designed the first system for refrigerating water to produce ice (using a system that compressed air, then partially cooled the hot compressed air with water allowing it to expand). He also conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comfort in homes and hospitals (i.e., air-conditioning). allowing windows to be kept closed. His idea for refrigerating a room was to keep bad air out, then thought to be the cause of malaria (Mal = bad; aria = air).

    The link with mosquitos was not made until the turn of the century, by a British scientist. Swamps were already being drained because they caused ‘bad air” this continued as it was realized that they are breeding areas for mosquitos. The Americans added to their anti-malarial arsenal by screening windows – a practice still not followed in Europe. These two practices largely wiped out malaria in the US, but the advent of DDT finished it. In Italy, where screens are not used and there was a large ‘human reservoir’ of malaria, the mosquito borne disease continued to cause illness and death until 1970: the Italian communist government would not use DDT before this as their philosophy was to fight the disease socioeconomically.

  75. Must retire for the night humbled by the sight of the massacred punctuation of my last comment. My apologies for the mess.

  76. Ben (10:27:56) :

    Meanwhile, the World Health Organziation re-evaluated decades of science research and is now promoting very successful interior wall spraying with DDT. Beyond the high mosquito kill rate, DDT appears to have a unique ability to repel mosquitos from even entering a sprayed building. Those that do enter leave at a very high percentage rate. Those that stay tend to cling to walls at some point, thereby eliminating them from the gene pool.

    So, with cost-effective spraying, enormous drops in Malaria death rates have been obtained. And that is crutial, since most people probably don’t realize the number who get Malaria can reach a Half Billion People or more per year. That is an enormous problem, concentrated mostly in poor areas around the world.

    Fortunately the World Health Organization’s interior spray program is having significant results, where it isn’t blocked by those who are not up to date with the safety and effectiveness of this life-saving program.

    So we are now back to where we were in the fifties. We just had to beat back the alarmism started by Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. It only cost the human family millions of deaths. But that is ok because most of the victims were black, poor, young, and out of sight over there in Africa.

    This whole tragedy of DDT illustrates what happens when zealots convince people “science” says something bad is going to happen if we don’t do something.

    It seems the global warming hysteria is turning on itself and will soon drop out of sight. Twenty years from now Climate Change will be the answer on a game show and most people who even remember will snicker at people’s foolishness.

    Here’s a good write up on what happened with the DDT scare:

    http://spectator.org/archives/2005/02/25/ddt-fraud-and-tragedy

    Ben thank you for the good news on the return of DDT.

  77. Steve (18:52:07) :

    Ask the Japanese. This is all well and good until Mothra shows up.

    I had forgotten all about Mothra. LOL

  78. tty (15:05:03) :

    Sorry but no. There was extensive research on raptors in Sweden which showed the egg-thinning effect. When DDE disappeared from the environment egg thickness went back to normal.

    Citation?

  79. does anyone else think it’s a crime against humanity that ddt is banned so people can sell more expensive and more harmful stuff?

  80. Back again – hopefully more coherent after getting some sleep.

    stansvonhorch, just wanted to say absolutely I agree that it’s a crime against humanity that DDT is banned. I doubt it is to sell more expensive and more harmful stuff, though – the ban is ideological.

    In Brazil you can still buy it as an indoor pesticide – I had two students from Brazil who floored me with this information a few years ago. Just go to the local supermarket or hardware store and pick up the stuff. There are a lot of creepy-crawly thingies that find their way into homes along the Amazon, and DDT is the best way to deal with them, although these students told me that they’re always seeing the stuff marketed as “new and improved” or “stronger formulation.”

    The ban was put in place in Europe and North America and enforced elsewhere by placing anti-DDT stipulations in aid packages – so the poorest of the poor could not get DDT if they needed food etc.

    I wonder how bad the bed-bug situation will have to get in N. America before DDT is considered again as a solution. Perhaps only the reintroduction of malaria to N. America and Europe will change attitudes – and the way the world is going, unless DDT use is allowed elsewhere, this is not beyond the realm of possibility.

  81. vigilantfish (06:34:32) :
    Perhaps only the reintroduction of malaria to N. America and Europe will change attitudes – and the way the world is going, unless DDT use is allowed elsewhere, this is not beyond the realm of possibility.

    Malaria *was* endemic to North America before DDT wiped out anopheles skeeters and other species hopped into the vacant habitat. The only thing keeping them from moving back is the ongoing battle to prevent new habitat from appearing — despite the efforts of the Greenies who want *all* skeeter habitat to remain untrammeled by us odious humans.

    Remind me to tell you about the time the NJDEP “re-introduced” timber rattlers to southern NJ in 1978 without warning anybody they did it.

  82. Bob Edelman (16:42:42) :
    Barbed wire would work just as well for New Jersey mosquitos.

    Razor wire. Jersey skeeters just use the normal type to hone their snoots.

  83. Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to install such systems at the sources; mosquito environments such as creeks, swamps, polar tundra areas? Bet it would. They could use solar, mini-nuclear or space developed power sources. Right? But I really agree that they ought to beef it up to also take care of flys.

  84. r (13:31:05) : “Can it tell the difference between a mosquito and Tinkerbell?”

    Tinkerbell is DEAD!!!!!

    OK. Calm down. There is a way . . .

    Everyone . . . clap your hands . . . and believe in fairies . . .

  85. Could be interesting for burglars if the power could be ramped up by a factor of a million or so. We should just eliminate those carbon breathing pollutants in the house. If it is not a fake the targeting is the most impressive or is it a scatter gun technique?

  86. tty, that does not explain why barnyard chickens, eating feed with large amounts of DDT directly applied to the feed, eating bugs killed by DDT, eating mice that ate bugs killed with DDT, eating chicken scraps from the kitchen, (did I miss anything?) did not have a problem with thin eggshells due to DDT.

  87. vigilantfish: A local pest control tech says that DDT is being made availible in the US soon. It will be water based instead of petroleum based.

  88. Bill Tuttle (07:02:50) :

    I’d love to hear your story about the reintroduction of rattlers unannounced by the NJDEP – hopefully somehow snakes will work their way into an AGW story posted at WUWT so we’ll have an excuse to hear it!

    I wrote and thought I had posted a long comment on the history of malaria in the U.S. and Europe, but in my sleepy haze last night I must have missed the ‘submit comment’ button as it never appeared. Many people, however, share the misconception that malaria is a tropical disease – thanks to DDT and its elimination from northern nations.

    Phillep Harding (12:46:54) :

    Did the pest control tech say for what applications DDT might be made available in the US again. Ferries will be frozen in the River Styx (rather as they currently are in the Baltic) before DDT returns to Canada.

    Canada – the land where PC politics were honed to their highest level before the Brits decided to imitate us, and amazingly quickly surpassed us. All you WUWT readers suffering under the current decline in British freedom and civility – blame Canada!

  89. pascvaks:
    Wouldn’t it be a lot cheaper to install such systems at the sources; mosquito environments such as creeks, swamps, polar tundra areas? Bet it would. They could use solar, mini-nuclear or space developed power sources. Right? But I really agree that they ought to beef it up to also take care of flys.

    In 1996 Discover magazine had an article about biologists who worked in the Alaskan tundra during the summer. They had a competition each year called the Swat Test. The goal was to kill as many bloodsucking insects as possible with a single swat of your hand, using your shoulder, thigh, or forearm as the impact area. (I suspect it was regarded as poaching to kill the critters on another person.)

    The record, at that time, was 270.

    I’m not sure how you count 270 squashed insect bodies, perhaps you just count the legs and divide by 6.

  90. vigilantfish (06:34:32) :
    (…)
    I wonder how bad the bed-bug situation will have to get in N. America before DDT is considered again as a solution. Perhaps only the reintroduction of malaria to N. America and Europe will change attitudes – and the way the world is going, unless DDT use is allowed elsewhere, this is not beyond the realm of possibility.

    More likely we need to re-conceptualize what a mattress is. We build them like furniture, then allow the soft parts to get loaded up with shed skin cells, other debris, and some bodily secretions, creating a feast for mites and other small bugs. Then we provide them incubator-like warmth for about eight hours a day.

    I remember the TV news reports on the secondhand mattress market. They followed government regulations where they were cleaned, fumigated, and even hung in a heated space for a fixed length of time before they could be sold. I’ve been to public auctions, estate sales etc, where the mattresses were wrapped and labeled as having been so processed. The bugs were not impressed, and persisted despite the rough treatment. Now the official secondhand market has apparently gone away, even the charities won’t take used ones.

    But what did work was mattress re-manufacturing. They stripped the mattress down to the springs, repaired them as needed, discarded the old soft parts and used new.

    Mattresses should be designed with the soft parts as removable covers, top and bottom pieces, that can be washed as large blankets and comforters are. Some bleach in the washer, dry them on high heat, should take care of the problem. This will lead to a replacement covering market, which should see good business due to the tendency of mattresses to get stained. If the mattress has a foam core, well that could be bagged with vent holes, or an anti-bug foam possibly could be formulated, like we have made anti-microbial plastics.

    Makes one wonder if our ancestors did or did not have it wrong, when a bed had a base of a grid of taut ropes on which washable soft layers were laid. There were maintenance issues, keeping the ropes under tension and washing the padding, but “sleep tight, and don’t let the bed bugs bite.” Washable padding on top of a springy layer attached to the bed? That should work.

  91. There are always unpredictable unintended consequences to things like this. For example, a die off of mosquitoes in one area doesn’t cause vacuum like effect and bring ever increasing numbers of them in? (The analogy of a hospital and it’s spread of infectious diseases within it’s walls)

    Or “nature” decides that a shortage of female mosquitoes forces an adaptation that generates more female mosquitoes being borne?

    So much of what we do is directed towards a symptom rather than a cause, and I view this kind of effort as much the same.

    On a side note, the power generation for these lasers is….solar? Wind, or more of those evvviiiiiiilll fossil fuels? :)

  92. kadaka (11:55:04) :

    I enjoyed your disquisition on the technology of mattress-making. Bed-bugs predate modern mattresses, and are notoriously difficult to eradicate because they hide in the crevices of all kinds of furniture and may be transferred from one location to another via unlaundered clothing, childrens’ toys, and other objects. To cite one paragraph of a long Wikipedia article (sorry):

    Bedbugs travel easily and quickly along pipes and boards, and their bodies are very flat, which allows them to hide in tiny crevices. In the daytime, they tend to stay out of the light, preferring to remain hidden in such places as mattress seams, mattress interiors, bed frames, nearby furniture, carpeting, baseboards, inner walls, tiny wood holes, and/or room clutter. Bedbugs can be found on their own but will more often congregate in groups once established. They tend not to travel further than 100 feet (30 m) from their host to feed and will usually remain close to their blood supply in the same bedroom or living quarters where people sleep.

    “Exact nesting locations of a typical infestation can vary greatly as bedbugs will often attempt to hide themselves within a wide range of tiny areas or spaces, within cracks and crevices, or simply in darker locations where they are out of plain sight. Such hiding spots may not always be immediately obvious to an inexperienced searcher—although bedbugs will indeed be much easier to find and locate once an infestation has become concentrated. A single intricate bed frame or mattress can hold a wealth of choice areas for bedbugs to hide so careful, meticulous inspection is a must. A standard mattress, however, is most likely to house bedbugs along the sewn piping material running along the outer edges on both the top and bottom sides of the mattress. The common bedbug is also most likely to hide in certain sections or parts of various types of beds if the segments are, in fact, present (i.e., hiding in the wooden head or footboard, for example, if the bed has one). Bedbugs may also quietly nest themselves under the cover of various materials and lie completely still for long periods making detection even more difficult. This manner of actively elusive behavior creates significant problems in successfully getting rid of them.”

    Bedbugs tuck themselves into peoples clothing when the unwitting victim fails to notice their attachment and the bedbugs can then be transferred to upholstered armchairs, sofas etc, where, if these are frequently used, bedbugs can also establish themselves.

    And another paragraph gives the following encouraging information:

    “Bedbugs may also introduce themselves into a new residence by traveling between multi-unit housing such as condominiums, dormitories, and apartment buildings, or arrive after having exited infested furniture that has been thrown out, discarded and/or placed outside for garbage collection or for treatment. This unintentional spread between adjacent homesites and nearby units is dependent, in part, upon the degree of infestation at the source (i.e. a heavier infestation is more likely to spread), but also upon the building material used to partition units and the material used to seal connecting pipes, vents, wires, etc. Further potential to spread is also directly related to the manner in which infested items are disposed of — such as whether or not contaminated furniture is dragged through common areas while being removed, which can result in the shedding of bedbugs or their eggs while being dragged — and whether or not infested items have been properly sealed once discarded….Bedbugs can also be transmitted via animal vectors including wild birds and household pets”

    Even after all the live bedbugs have been eliminated, a bedbug re-infestation can occur through eggs (bedbugs are prolific breeders) that have been inadvertently scattered while furniture or other items are being moved in the process of trying to eliminate the infestation.

    IF bedbugs only involved bugs in beds, your ideas might work. Pesticides are always involved in eradication efforts, but the problem of eggs cannot be dealt with as effectively by any other insecticide as it could be using DDT, due to the persistence and efficacy of DDT. In fact, very likely current bedbug problems are due to a reintroduction of this insect, as DDT apparently wiped out bedbugs in the 1940s in North America.

  93. From the wikipedia page on bedbugs…

    “Experiments with high concentrations of carbon dioxide have succeeded in killing bedbugs within 24 hours.”

  94. @ vigilantfish (13:55:47) :
    True, I have proposed a treatment, not a cure. But it would be good for many ills attributed to mattresses, including mites. I shall also note that before modern mattresses, the laundry technology employed by our ancient ancestors was… somewhat less effective than what we currently have. Nevermind that the padding used could have also been hay, among other organic substances that do not lend themselves well to being washed.

    @ DirkH (14:45:26) :
    So we remove people and pets, seal up a house with plastic and duct tape, flood it with CO2 at positive pressure, then just come back in a day and open everything back up, problem solved. That should also be as effective on other infestations, like cockroaches and mice.

    That should make for interesting confrontations with the committed CAGW-believing greens. Such a solution would obviously be marketed as 100% natural without dangerous chemicals, and the greens would throw a fit since it uses EVIL CARBON DIOXIDE!

  95. DirkH (14:45:26) :

    Carbon dioxide would not kill the eggs. This would require several repeats – and at what cost to the climate? sarc/

    More seriously – boggles the mind as to how one would make an entire house or apartment airtight so as to keep the carbon dioxide at high enough concentrations for long enough to wipe out the bedbugs.

    Moral of the story – always read hotel reviews before booking in to check for bedbug reports. This is not a problem you want to have, when bedbug laser zappers don’t seem to be an option and DDT is not allowed.

  96. Having worked with industrial lasers for many years, I think this could work, would cost a ton of money, be dangerous to anyone nearby, and in violation of just about every government regulation for lasers. So someone will probably get a large grant (of the taxpayer’s money) to sudy it.

    A DVD writer wouldn’t have 1/1000 of the power needed for this.

    Bats. (in most areas) Baseball bats in Northern Mighigan.

  97. That photonic fence looks great! I wonder how much a fence system like this would cost. It looks expensive. Mosquito Magnets can protect property up to a one-acre area for an entire season and are already on the market.

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