Social media posts claim a video shows a mosquito with a serial number, and some suggest these are genetically engineered insects created as “bioweapons.” This is false; the images stem from a conspiracy theory that was debunked earlier this year and show a different insect whose natural pattern resembles a number, experts say.
“Why would mosquitoes have serial numbers unless they’re used as a bio weapon. We are under full attack,” says a post shared to Gettr, a conservative social media platform, on September 22, 2023.
The video purporting to show a mosquito, with what appears to be numbers on its back, circulated earlier this year, sparking conspiracy theories. “Who has caught a mosquito and put a number on it or, who made this?” says one user in a March 2023 TikTok as ominous music plays in the background. The creator suggests the insect may be a robot or a drone. “As you can clearly see it says 36, or 38 — I don’t know,” he says.
Similar claims can be found elsewhere on social media platforms like Facebook, X, and Rumble, some attempting to tie the phenomenon to Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder who is a frequent target of misinformation.
“BILL GATES is to blame for releasing millions of GMO mosquitoes into the public,” says an Instagram post, also from March, sharing the same clip.
AFP has debunked claims suggesting US malaria cases are linked to a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project using genetically modified mosquitoes.
Although the philanthropy has funded research and projects involving genetically modified mosquitoes in other parts of the world as part of an effort to prevent the disease, they are not directly responsible for releasing them. The latest claims are similarly false, and the insect shown in the video is in fact, not a mosquito according to entomology experts.
“No, those pics are not mosquitoes,” said Phil Lounibos, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of Florida’s Medical Entomology Laboratory, in an October 2, 2023 email.
“Not a mosquito to my eye,” added Julian Dupuis, professor of entomology at the University of Kentucky, also in an October 2, 2023 email.
Both professors agreed that although the video’s image quality is somewhat low, it is clear that the insect shown is not a mosquito and is much more likely an aphid.
“Definitely a true bug (order Hemiptera),” added Dupuis referring to the scientific order of insects. Bugs that fall under this category have several key characteristics (archived here) including front wings that cross over to form an “X” pattern on its back.
AFP has debunked another claim regarding Gates and mosquitoes here.