Science

Tsetse flies love blue color , Innovative approach to curb Trypanosom

Researchers invented traps from blue and black-colored clothes as well as nets to catch and kill
tsetse flies

By Mekonnen Teshome (Science Journalist)
Mombasa, Kenya – (November, 2019): As Easter Africa scientists, long ago,
have discovered that tsetse flies are too much attracted to blue-colored objects;
they are now developing same color NGU traps to control the vectors that transmit
Trypanosomosis both to cattle and humans. Researchers working of International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
(ICIPE) have successfully designed traps that attract/pull and kill tsetse flies by
combining pieces of blue and black-colored clothes as well as nets, as the flies are
naturally love blue color.

According to Mr. Michael Okal, a post-doctoral researcher and entomologist at
icipe, the baited trap is based on both visual (shape and colour) and olfactory cues
including putting cow urine and acetone under the trap to attract the flies more.
Icipe’s researchers announced the effective development of the trap, which has a
“pulling effect”, as Kenyan Science Journalists Congress convened on November
18, 2019 in Mombasa, Kenya, the NGU trap which is also referred as “artificial
cow” is named after Nguruman, where it was developed, meant for savannah
species of tsetse flies.
During a field visit in Tangini village in Kubwa South ward in Kwale County,
farmers and cattle keepers confirmed that the newly invented trap is very useful in
controlling the tsetse flies and protect their cattle from the disease.
Josephine Wayga is a model farmer whose farm is used as a learning centre in
demonstrating the traps to other farmers Kwale County.
“I mostly communicate and teach what I know to other members of the community
when we meet for our cattle’s blood test every month. The meeting is organised by
the researchers as a way of monitoring the disease,” Wayga said.
The tsetse fly protection project was an initiative carried out in the Eastern Africa
region that also includes Tanzania and Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia, icipe is also making similar efforts to curb the vectors of nagana
(African Animal Trypanosomosis – AAT) and sleeping sickness (Human African
Trypanosomosis – HAT).

Affecting human and animal health as well as negatively contributing to tourism
earnings, the disease is a huge concern to national economies, for instance, Kenya
is losing nearly Sh20 billion annually due to tsetse fly infestation.
Apart from the NGU tsetse fly trap, ICIPE researchers say that they have
developed a collar repellant technology, which has a “pushing effect”, for
protecting livestock against trypanosomiasis disease.
A collar made of synthetic and animal- derived chemicals – 2-methoxy-4-
methylphenol and a 5-constituent waterbuck repellent.
With collars which are put around the neck of the animal/cattle, the researchers
identified the body odour of those animals that the tsetse flies do not bite like the
waterbuck then is put it in a slow-release mechanism and put it in a collar that
hanged on a cow. So when the flies pass near the cattle, they think it’s a waterbuck
and avoid it.
The repellant is an innovative technology that mimics the odours of animals that
are not bitten by tsetse flies. The biomimicry technology is safe for the
environment, cheap for farmers to use and it allows for mobility that the cattle can
move when still protecting them in different areas.
Okal “You could not keep livestock in this area ten years ago. When we first came
here, 70 per cent of all the animals in this area were infected by the disease. And
out of those, most died and those that survived could not provide milk, give birth
or even be used for ploughing.”
Both the repellant and the trap are environment-frendly means that reduces
chemical uses.

Subsequent to agreements among icipe and various implementing partners , including the ministries of agriculture, health, education and capacity building; the
Science and Technology Commission (now Ministry of Science and Technology),
and Addis Ababa University, icipe started its operations in Ethiopia in 1993.

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