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Informational Alert

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Insectary Automation

Live mosquitoes are required to comprehensively study vector borne diseases. Standard rearing methods are tedious and time-consuming, and often generate inconsistent results. We have developed a series of systems to automate the rearing and handling of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes with the goal of increasing the ease, efficiency, and accessibility of mosquito production.

The Problem

A crucial part of mosquito rearing is the daily draining of larval pans to harvest pupae. Each pan must be lifted and emptied into a 5-gallon bucket where a strainer collects the mosquito pupae and larvae.

Pans and a bucket used for breeding mosquitos

The 40-pound bucket of dirty water then gets hoisted and dumped into the sink. We can empty up to 200 pans in one day which equals about 70 gallons of water. The frequent emptying of this bucket (around 14 times/day) is unpleasant and exhausting. 


A self-emptying bucket for breeding mosquitos

We improved this task by placing a pump inside the bucket and putting the whole system on wheels. When the water inside the bucket reaches a certain level, the pump automatically activates and empties the water directly into the sink—no lifting necessary. The wheels enable the bucket to be easily rolled around the insectary. Both of these components allow insectary workers to empty pans without interruption, greatly reducing the time and physical energy required.

A mouth aspirator, which is used to manually transfer mosquitos from one cage to another.

The Problem

To transfer mosquitoes from one cage to another, researchers often use mouth aspirators. Not only is it unsanitary to put one’s mouth on laboratory equipment, but it is also uncomfortable and easy to make mistakes. We wanted to create a system that would transfer mosquitoes safely and efficiently, without using our mouths.


The system consists of a suction lid for the destination cage, a vacuum pump, and a transfer tube. The user places the suction lid on the destination cage and puts one end of the transfer tube into the destination cage. After turning on the vacuum, the user puts the other end of the transfer tube into the cage with mosquitoes—the decrease in pressure in the destination cage pulls the mosquitoes through the transfer tube into the destination cage.

A diagram outlining insectary devices.

This device enables quicker transfer of mosquitoes and is easier and safer for the user. The direct transfer tube is a significant improvement over the mouth aspirator when considering mosquito survival because mosquitoes are not compacted against each other during transfer.                            

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