Finally Here!

Touched down in the Maldives a few days ago and what a start it has been! After a couple of lengthy layovers and more than enough time spent in the air, I can say it has most definitely been worth the wait to arrive in my new home for the next six weeks at the Four Seasons Resort at Landaa Giraavaru.

We spent our first night getting to know our Maldivian volunteer partners who picked us up from the airport in the capital of Male with a “Welcome UCSC Volunteers” hand drawn sign. What a welcoming and friendly gesture to arrive to after such lengthy travels. I distinctly remember spotting them from within the airport gate, giving them a wave and watching them jump in the air in elation to finally be able to get acquainted. I must admit that although I was fairly exhausted, the excitement was most certainly shared. After discussing Eid celebrations, Maldivian customs, football (or soccer), and our anticipation of the upcoming project over smoothies and snacks, we retired to a local hotel for a much needed night’s rest.

The following day our group woke up early to be greeted again by our new Maldivian volunteer friends. Today meant the chance to finally travel to Landaa Giraavaru, the island within the Baa Atoll which would be our new home for the coming weeks. I also got the chance to finally meet Trudy Rilling-Collins, our fearless leader and mosquito lady coordinator, or madiri dataa as the Maldivians would say in their native language of Dhivehi. Sydney Miller and Ibrahim Lirar, our other two leaders, also greeted us at the Landaa Giravaru dock.

It is these three individuals who have worked relentlessly to make this project happen and allow for me to have this amazing opportunity. I cannot wait to learn from Trudy, Sydney, and Lira along this wild ride of a mosquito control project in the Baa atoll. Trudy’s seemingly endless knowledge of mosquitos, their life cycle, and their breeding habitats will provide us with the tools we need to attack the issue head on. Sydney’s leadership skills, organization, and amazing attitude will give us the confidence to be able to travel island to island with the necessary tools at hand. Lira’s connection with the Maldivian people and relentless attitude in tackling this problem will help to provide the bridge needed to connect with families and communities. All together, we have an amazing team comprised of some incredibly talented people. I can’t wait to see what the coming weeks have in store for us!


Mosquito Control, The Enviromentally Friendly Way

Published online in

Photo by Mark Garrett

By Juliet Blalack

Mosquito control is hardly controversial, right? The last way you want to spend your hard-earned vacation is swatting away mosquitoes and then scratching away at the bites. So it hardly seems tragic when the resort starts spraying the bloodsuckers.

However, the way that most resorts combat mosquitoes has some alarming implications for the environment. In the case of coastal areas, many mosquito pesticides can kill fish even when diluted down to one part per million. The spray washes out into oceans and coral alcoves. These chemicals are neurotoxins that can harm people, and spraying them into the air (called “fogging”) has an immediate effect on air quality.

“When they fog they have a special machine that generates a fine mist, like a smoke with diesel fuel and pesticides combined. You feel like you can’t breathe, it’s a really awful experience,” says Trudy Collins, an environmentally friendly mosquito control consultant.

Seem like a dilemma? That’s exactly where Trudy Collins comes in. This UC Berkeley-educated global citizen has made it her mission to help resorts and the communities around them solve mosquito problems safely, effectively, and inexpensively.

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Mosquito Lady in the Maldives


‘Mosquito Lady’ and local community combine to deter unwanted guests on Kuda Huraa

‘Mosquito Lady’ and local community combine to deter unwanted guests on Kuda Huraa thumbnail

Pest control consultant Trudy Rilling-Collins, better known as the ‘Mosquito Lady’ has been working closely with Four Seasons Kuda Huraa resort and the local community of neighbouring Boda Huraa to introduce sustainable and environmentally friendly mosquito control procedures.

As the South-West monsoon season reaches the Maldives, wetter weather will bring rain to replenish the water tanks that provide safe drinking water for the people of the islands. But it is not just the human population who will be glad to see the clouds rolling overhead.

The increased rainfall is also particularly appealing to the country’s mosquito population, which will take full advantage of any available water in which they can lay their eggs. Any stagnant body of water will be most appreciated by Aedes aegypti and her cousin Aedes albopictus, the mosquito species that carry the dengue virus which has been afflicting Maldivians in increasing numbers in recent years.

Aedes aegypti will utilise any water available in which to lay her eggs. She will live for only one month, but in that time her larvae will take full advantage of any accommodating bucket, well, puddle, blocked drain or water tank.

She will sustain herself during this period by feeding exclusively on human blood, unlike her cousin who will happily feed off any red-blooded creature.

Aedes aegypti is a particular fan of mid-market tourism, preferring to find accommodation in close proximity to the local community. Eager to ingratiate herself with her human food supply, she can visit up to five people per blood meal, potentially passing the dengue virus to all she acquaints herself with.

She will be able to lay four lots of eggs in her lifetime which is more than long enough to see her young grow into fully grown biting adults, a process that takes only one week.

Fully booked

One place where Aedes aegypti and her kin will not receive a hospitable welcome this year, however, is on the resort island of Kuda Huraa in North Male’ Atoll and the inhabited island of Bodu Huraa next door.

The resort has this year enlisted the help of Trudy Rilling-Collins, otherwise known as ‘Mosquito Lady’, to ensure that its hospitality extends only to the human guests.

Trudy runs her own consultancy, specialising in environmentally responsible pest control, and has been working closely with Four Seasons Kuda Huraa and the Bodu Huraa community to ensure that there are no vacancies for dengue spreading visitors.

The resort on Kuda Huraa and the local community share a symbiotic relationship. The resort provides around 13 percent of the registered population in Bodu Huraa with jobs and has provided vital infrastructure to the local population.

The town’s sewerage system was provided by Four Seasons and the company has even assisted in providing fresh water to Bodu Huraa during the current dry season.

This close relationship is not lost on the mosquitos, who can easily travel the short distance between the islands, to feed happily from tourists and locals alike.

Trudy studied the biological control of insects and became disillusioned with the extensive use of harmful pesticides in what she sees as often futile attempts to control pests.

The use of pesticides in a diesel fuel carrier, referred to as fogging, is widely practised in the Maldives and throughout the tropical regions, although Four Seasons Kuda Huraa, which also pays for mosquito control in the two islands, has not fogged since Trudy’s arrival in April.

“The neurotoxins present in pesticides used for fogging on the islands have the same effects on humans that they have on the insects, it just takes far higher doses to affect humans,” said Trudy.

“Fogging kills only a small percentage of adults, five to ten percent if you’re lucky, and over time results in increased resistance,” she added.

Trudy believes that the key to mosquito control lies in making the area inhospitable to the pests: “80-90 percent of the problem can be sorted by eliminating standing water where mosquitoes breed.”

The effects of these chemicals are also harmful to the local environment, a particular concern for SEAMARC, a Maldivian an environmental consultancy that works closely with Four Seasons.

Alban Viaud, a marine biologist on Kuda Huraa, explained that the fogging chemicals which are quickly washed into the ocean are harmful to marine health: “Only a few parts per million can kill fish.”

Trudy has been working closely with the resort, the local council, schools and the community to implement a sustainable, effective and environmentally friendly way to keep mosquito numbers down.

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