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Bug Hunt

What’s the link between poverty, disinvestment, and mosquitoes?
The mosquito, bearer of annoyance and disease.
The mosquito, bearer of annoyance and disease. Paulo Whitaker/Reuters

Every July, for four years running, Shannon LaDeau inspected nine ceramic toilets sitting idly in a vacant lot behind a building, near a block of abandoned lots and houses on the edge of the West Baltimore neighborhood of Franklin Square. No, she is not weird. This was for science.

LaDeau’s visits revealed that each of the nine toilets was reliably filled up with stale water, surrounded by overgrown foliage, and boxed in by litter and trash. What the average viewer saw was an eyesore; what LaDeau saw was the perfect breeding ground for Aedes albopictus, otherwise known as the Asian tiger mosquito, an invasive species that routinely annoys at your summer cookouts.