A Hunt for Mosquitoes

Mosquito trapping is a tricky exercise

Mosquito

Imagine how small a mosquito is. But getting one in a trap is tricky. Looking at the equipment that you need to trap mosquitoes, you would wonder why one should use a crane to lift a kilo of sugar. You need things like resting buckets (20L bucket lined with black cloth on the inside), Light traps, and or Mosquito Magnet traps. This tells you how much you need to prepare just to get the mosquitoes for studying the diseases they carry.

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During this time (the last week of March 2016), the Longido area was dry, a little windy and dusty. You wouldn’t expect much from trapping mosquitoes as they prefer wet, warm and shady habitat. Villages and households in Longido are dominated by the Maasai pastoral communities. We sample on week days, when one would expect all kids to be at school, but some were seen herding livestock searching for pasture and water. That means, for typical pastoralists, livestock is more important than anything.

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Were we welcomed by the communities?

We were well received in every household that participated in our study. I can say, the Maasai are very generous and hospitality is part of their culture. We had time to discuss about the study with adults, but of course, you should expect a question from curious kids when you are done with the adults, on your way to the car or when setting up the traps. I received questions like “Why are you trapping useless things such as mosquitoes?” The simple answer was “because they carry diseases that can kill both livestock and people”, diseases like Rift Valley Fever (Homa ya bonde la ufa –in Swahili). The tricky question to answer was “did you bring medicine to treat our animals so that they don’t get such diseases as RVF?” These questions can tell us how communities expect researchers to bring solutions to their problems, and how important it is to give feedback when the research results are out. Since most children speak neither English nor Swahili, you feel the necessity of learning their language, Maasai. You can also imagine how hard it is for them when they go to school, where everything is taught in Swahili. They have to learn a new language at the same time as understanding what is being taught in that new language.

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It is never smooth in the field…

While in the field, it has never been a smooth trip. Mostly driving on rough bumpy roads, we had flat tires, and getting lost on the way trying to locate the maasai bomas because they are not as close as one would expect, and there is no clear way to most bomas. After almost two dry months, it started raining in the first week of April, after Easter. While in the field, it rained for two consecutive days. The clay soil became slippery and challenging to drive on. On our last day in Longido, one of our field vehicles got stuck in muddy soil while moving from one boma to the next. Thanks to both good mobile network reception and our other vehicle being within reach and able to come to rescue us, we were able to escape the mud. Finally heading back to Moshi to prepare for the next trip.

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By James Nyarobi, April 2016

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