It might be hard to find many people who are willing to defend the life of the mosquito buzzing around your living room on a cool summer night, but for the most part, civilized society tends to lean away from the intentional extinction of a species. The world’s ecosystem didn’t develop for the sake of our human comfort, and each creature (whether beast or pest) has a role to play in the great “circle of life” we all learned about as kids in science class.
It can be extremely difficult to predict what second or third order effects removing a species from an ecosystem can actually have. The variables tend to spread far beyond the immediate concerns about the food chain that first comes to mind. However, there’s a sizable contingent of scientists who believe eliminating certain species of mosquitoes (or reducing their global population to near extinction) may not have that detrimental of an effect on the overall ecosystem. If that is the case, eliminating some species of mosquitoes could mean a lot more than getting to skip the DEET before you go on your hike.
According to the World Health Organization, the effort to control the spread of malaria, perhaps the most famous of mosquito-borne illnesses, will cost something in the neighborhood of $2.5 billion a year by 2025. Add in infection case management and program support, and the estimate climbs to $3.3 billion for the same year. Under President Trump, the United States invested $961 million for global malaria prevention in 2018 alone, but reported cases of infection continue to rise. In 2017 (the most recent year with figures to pull from), malaria cases increased for the second year in a row, with 219 million infections and 435,000 dying as a result.
In 2016, a study showed that mefloquine, a medication that was once commonly prescribed to U.S. troops deployed to areas with high malaria infection rates, can cause brain damage and lead to other serious medical conditions. In 2016, a reported 57 U.S. service members contracted malaria, despite significant prevention efforts. Mosquitoes aren’t just disease carriers and a drain on the global economy, they’re even a threat to military readiness.