Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Genetically Modified Mosquito With Number Stamped On It

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Genetically Modified Mosquito With Number Stamped On It Buzzkill

Does a video on social media show a genetically modified (GM) mosquito with a number stamped on it? No, that's not true: An insect expert at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the bug shown in the video "does not appear to be a mosquito." He added that the markings on the insect are "almost certainly natural," not manmade.

The claim appeared in a post and video on Instagram (archived here) published on March 19, 2023, under the title "SINCE WHEN DO MOSQUITOES HAVE #'S STAMPED ON THEM?" The description of the post says:

BILL GATES is to blame for releasing millions of GMO mosquitoes into the public.. the more you know.

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of the writing of this fact check:

Mosquito or something else.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Mar 20 16:17:40 2023 UTC)

Not a mosquito

In a March 20, 2023, email, Patrick (PJ) Liesch, director of the UW-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, said, "the insect does not appear to be a mosquito," but added he couldn't " pin down a definitive ID." He continued:

[T]he insect does remind me of certain "true bugs" (Order Hemiptera). Please note that mosquitoes are considered "true flies" and belong to a very different group (Order Diptera). In the video, the individual appears to fold the insect's wings forward, which indicates it's an adult insect. The "plant bugs" (Family Mirdidae) ... did come to mind as a possibility. Some of the other features remind me of certain aphids (Family Aphididae) which might also be a possibility.

Natural, not stamped

In his email, Liesch said, "The markings are almost certainly natural." The video suggests the numbers are stamped on the bugs. Liesch said that's not the case:

I mentioned certain aphids as a possibility and some aphids can have dark markings/patterns on the dorsal surface of their abdomen. ... This brings to mind the concept of pareidolia, where humans perceive meaningful patterns from visual stimuli (such as shapes of clouds, etc.).

To prove his point, Liesch cited images of two different types of aphids found in nature that have markings that appear to look like the numbers 18 and 38. You can see them below:

aphids 18 and 38.png

(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Mon Mar 20 17:36 2023 UTC)

Asked about GM mosquitos and numbering, Liesch said, "I am not aware of any such efforts."

GM mosquitoes

There are such things as GM mosquitoes. Genetically modified Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, also known as the yellow fever mosquito, have been released in parts of Florida and Texas in an effort to control the spread of viruses like dengue, Zika, and chikungunya, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While these mosquitoes do carry a fluorescent marker, they are not numbered. The CDC website explains the program:

CDC mosquitoes.png

(Source: CDC website screenshot taken on Mon Mar 20 18:09:47 2023 UTC)

These are examples of what the Aedes aegypti mosquito looks like. The images were found in a Google search. Its appearance is much different than the insect in the social media video:

yellow fever mosquito.png

(Source: Google screenshot taken on Mon Mar 20 18:09:47 2023 UTC)

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has helped fund related research in using mosquitoes to control disease. It has invested tens of millions of dollars in the Target Malaria project. But, ultimately, Bill Gates would not be responsible for "releasing millions of GMO mosquitoes into the public" as the post on Instagram suggests.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about Bill Gates can be found here.

Other Lead Stories fact checks about mosquitoes can be found here.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

About Us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion