Bats Proposed as Latest Weapon to Fight Zika Virus in Miami

One Miami city official has an unusual proposal to combat the spread of the Zika virus. City Commissioner Kristin Rosen Gonzalez has proposed using bats, which eat mosquitoes, including the species known to spread the virus.

"Some people are laughing and they are not taking it seriously. But bats, depending on the species, eat up to 3,000 mosquitoes in one day, and they avoid humans," Gonzalez told ABC News today. She has sponsored a resolution that proposes placing bat houses in the city to curb the mosquito population.

The first outbreak of locally transmitted Zika virus was reported in Miami in July. In the months since, city officials have continued to battle the ongoing outbreak, which has infected dozens in the Miami-area. Larvacide, insecticide and door-to-door inspections have all been used to try and reduce the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus.

The resolution seeks to authorize the city manager to "research a potential pilot program for the placement of bat houses and habitats in the city to control the city's mosquito population due to the continued presence of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus." The measure was discussed at the commissioners meeting today.

"It was a goodwill gesture to the environmentalists, who were really upset about us spraying all the neurotoxins," Gonzalez said of her resolution, but added that she isn't sure if it will be adopted because "it makes people nervous."

The Miami City Commission reviewed the resolution today and passed it to Miami-Dade County, which holds the authority to either adopt or reject the resolution.

The measure of floated as an alternative to spraying chemicals, Gonzalez said, adding: "This was really the one environmental solution."

The American Mosquito Control Association notes on its website that bats have historically not been an effective method of curbing mosquito populations, and that mosquitoes comprise less than 1 percent of gut contents of wild-caught bats, saying that bats feed on "whatever food source presents itself."

"There is no question that bats eat mosquitoes, but to utilize them as the sole measure of control would be folly indeed," the AMCA states, "particularly considering the capacity of both mosquitoes and bats to transmit diseases."
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