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One Man's Trash is Another Man's...Zika Combatant?

Canadian and Mexican researchers have developed a cost-effective mosquito trap to combat Zika in Guatemala

Photo of Neshani Jani

Written by

An Ovillanta

Earlier this year, Canadian and Mexican researchers working in Guatemala created mosquito trap made from discarded tires called an "ovillanta." The trap is formed by arranging sections of the tires into a mouth-like shape with a cavity that holds a nontoxic, milk-like substance to attract mosquitoes.

Old tires are a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes, as they fill with water when it rains. There are thousands of discarded tires in Latin America where Zika is most prominent, and researchers have estimated that the mosquitoes that transmit Zika use discarded tires for nearly 1/3 of their breeding sites.

Aside from being remarkably effective (the tire traps killed seven times as many mosquitoes as standard traps the researchers set up in Guatemala) there are several other merits to using these particular traps:

  1. Tires are a universally affordable instrument in low-resource settings
  2. Giving old tires a new use creates an opportunity to clean up the local environment
  3. The traps are cheaper than using pesticides to kill mosquitoes, which don't always work, and can also harm bats and the environment. 

The tire trap is a shining example of how cheap, everyday items can have a crucial impact on trapping mosquitoes and getting the Zika and other mosquito-born viruses under control.

Learn more about the traps and how they work>>


Join the conversation:

Photo of Waiswa  John Billy

Hello, thank you for being that innovative. These are great ideas that need to be published and taught to our local communities to help them fight and prevent spread of infectious diseases like zika.

Photo of Neshani Jani

Thanks Waiswa Billy John  , I hope you can continue to spread the idea to your community as well! I wanted to also give credit where it is due - to Gérard Ulíbarri and his research team who came up with the idea.

Photo of Waiswa  John Billy

Thank you Neshani Jani . I am to spread this idea to my community more and more. its such a wonderful idea that one can apply. I applied for a chapter in my community but it has not been comfirmed yet. It will help me make a great impact in my community working with a team that joins the chapter. This can help spread the idea more and get more good ideas.

Photo of Lauren

Hi Neshani, This is a great environmentally friendly concept. Would these traps need to placed away from living areas as they attract mosquitos? Also, do these traps only kill larvae and eggs?  My concern would be if they are placed closer to homes  there could be a potential issue that this could increase the spread of disease due to attracting  mosquitos closer to living areas. Thanks

Photo of Neshani Jani

Hi Lauren,

You raise a really good point! I did some digging around and it does seem like these traps only kill larvae and eggs. From what I understand, female mosquitos fly into the ovillanta, lay their eggs on paper inside, and deposit pheromones in the water to let other mosquitos know that they have found a safe breeding site. Twice a week the paper needs to be removed and checked for eggs, then burned or sterilized using ethanol. The water is then drained and any other larvae present are filtered out and destroyed. The filtered water is then placed back in the trap for reuse – it becomes more attractive to mosquitos over time, as more and more of the pheromones are deposited and concentrated within it. The overall idea of the ovillanta is to destroy the second (or third or fourth!) generation of mosquitoes. By destroying the larvae and the eggs continuously, the next generations etc. won’t be able to carry on transmittable diseases.

To your point, I definitely agree that the traps should probably be placed away from homes so that the mosquitoes attracted to the traps don’t transmit diseases to the people living in them. The good thing about these traps is that they have the advantage of portability, allowing them to be placed at a considerable distance away from home-sites and electrical outlets. Effective mosquito management requires integrating a variety of available control strategies (like the use of repellents such as the kite patch that John Kiernan-Lewis mentioned or Matt Branigan 's ziKit), and coupled with training local health workers and engaging communities in vector control, I think the traps could be part of a powerful multi-pronged strategy for responding to public health emergencies like Zika. Thanks again for your thoughtful comment on the traps!

Photo of Ruby H

Thanks Neshani for sharing this. I've seen other mosquito traps and devices. This one is unique. Check this out @Minh Nguyen

Photo of OpenIDEO

Congrats on being today's featured contribution!

Photo of Neshani Jani

Thank you OpenIDEO for featuring the tire traps!

Photo of Daniel Anis

Hi Neshani,

I think is a really great idea to optimized used stuff and turn it into something so useful like this. Besides combating the Zika virus that spread by mosquitoes, this idea also help with recycling the wastage that sometimes become a place for mosquitoes to breeds. This idea, reducing the mosquitoes number as the source of the Zika's virus combines with educating the local people hopefully will reduces the number of Zika virus victim.

Photo of Minh Nguyen

Hey Vikas Meka ! The ovillanta returns for a full post.

Neshani Jani I loved the localization of what is available to build these traps. There was an earlier post you should check out below.  Also, I'm wondering how the traps can be combined with other local methods....depending on availability. (check out some iddeas from obua Godfrey


Photo of Neshani Jani

Minh Nguyen thanks for sharing obua Godfrey 's post and cyril 's original idea!  There are some great ideas there - I bet hanging a trap on a neem tree or adding neem seeds to the traps could be a double threat to the mosquitoes. 

It would also be interesting to see public-private partnerships form between governments and tire manufacturing companies to combat zika and other mosquito born diseases.  For example, I read that the Minister of Health from the city of Cali in Colombia, which has been hit by Zika, recently visited Guatemala to see ovillantas for himself. It would be cool if a tire company like Bridgestone Americas ( partnered with the government of Colombia to provide each household with its own ovi trap. I'm thinking that ovillantas would be a good use for tire scraps or tires that they can't sell! 

Photo of Janice Campbell

Secondary benefits: environmental cleanup and job creation! Love it.

Photo of Lauren Kaplan

Neshani Jani  -- a toolkit is an interesting idea, I like the idea of integrating this with education and prevention more locally. Thanks for sharing the video, it looks helpful in training teams to make these! 

Photo of Lauren Kaplan

Hi Neshani, this is a really cost-effective an innovative approach to vector control. How would you scale this to other communities? Thanks for sharing!

Photo of Neshani Jani

Hi Lauren, great question! I think that the traps could be part of a toolkit created to aid in vector control globally. The toolkit could be region-specific and contain educational info to teach people about mosquito vectors and the risks of having mosquito-breeding habitats near their homes, as well as provide cost-effective solutions such as the tire traps. The research team that developed the traps made this great how-to video, which could also be helpful in scaling up the product. Check it out if you have a chance!