1. Lab-bred mosquitoes to fly near Miami to combat Zika
Thousands of bacteria-infected mosquitoes will be flying near Miami to test a new way to suppress insect populations that carry Zika and other viruses.
According to a statement from the Kentucky-based company MosquitoMate, the first mosquitoes will be released in the city of South Miami. The test is in collaboration with the Miami-Dade County Mosquito Control and Habitat Management Division.
MosquitoMate infects male Aedes aegypti mosquitoes with the naturally occurring Wolbachia bacteria. Any offspring produced when the lab-bred mosquitoes mate with wild female mosquitoes won’t survive to adulthood.
Male mosquitoes don’t bite, and Wolbachia isn’t harmful to humans.
A similar trial began near Key West last spring. Hurricane Irma’s landfall in the Florida Keys interrupted the final weeks of monitoring for that trial. The results are still pending.
2. Florida Senate approves $100M for land conservation
Florida would set aside $100 million each year for a conservation land acquisition program under a bill passed by the Senate.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously Wednesday. Sen. Rob Bradley said his bill ensures the money dedicated to the Florida Forever program will be strictly for land acquisition and preservation.
The bill prohibits the money from being spent on administrative and technical costs.
Bradley said the measure better reflects the will of voters who in 2014 passed a constitutional amendment dedicating a portion of real estate taxes to land conservation.
3. Fourth panther found dead on road in January
A Florida panther was found dead Tuesday on a road in Hendry County, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported.
The female panther, estimated to be younger than 3 years old, was the fourth panther found dead in 2018, all on or along roads.
The Conservation Commission reported finding the panther on State Road 80, west of LaBelle. One other panther roadkill was reported this year in Hendry County, and two others were reported in Collier.
Last year, 24 panthers were found dead on Southwest Florida roads, down from a record 34 roadkills in 2016.
Overall, 30 panthers were found dead in 2017, according to the Conservation Commission. Other causes of death were fights with other panthers or were listed as unknown. In 2016, biologists reported 42 dead panthers.
Florida panthers are an endangered species. Scientists estimate their numbers are increasing, possibly to as many as 230. But some ranchers and hunters say that number is too low, citing increases in panthers preying on livestock and being killed on roads.
To report a dead panther, call the FWC’s Wildlife Alert Hotline, 888-404-FWCC (3922).