In recent days, a video of an insect caught in the fingers has been gaining popularity on social media. It has a number-like pattern on the abdomen. The content of the recording is described as a presentation of a captured genetically modified mosquito produced by Bill Gates. The mark on the abdomen is to be a serial number. In this article, we will prove that the presented insect is not a mosquito, but also it has nothing to do with the former president of Microsoft.
In the video, one can see a silver birch aphid
The insect in the video is Euceraphis betulae. It is an aphid feeding from May until the end of the Summer on birch tree. Its name in English is silver birch aphid or simply birch aphid. Adults have membranous wings, a black petiole, and often, but not always, transverse black patches on the abdomen. These black elements visible in the recording have been read as number 38 or 36.
A number that is not a number – a few words about apophenia
We often see symbols, numbers, or faces in animal colour patterns, in the clouds, in stains on the wall, or in other random structures. This is known as apophenia. This is a tendency to perceive relationships or hidden meanings in random places. According to evolutionary theories, this tendency accompanies humanity for centuries and was helpful, among others, in spotting hidden predators quickly enough. Its side effect is seeing symbols in random places.
Apophenia is a phenomenon first named and systematised by German neurologist and psychiatrist Klaus Conrad in 1958. Conrad described it as an unjustified perception of dependencies and meanings. The fact that we see a sign resembling the number 36 on the body of an aphid does not mean that someone put it there intentionally. It is a combination of the natural colouring of an insect and our overinterpretation.
Bill Gates’ ‘Mosquitoes’
There are mosquitoes that could be called “Bill Gates’ mosquitoes”, but they have no external characteristics and look exactly the same as regular mosquitoes. This term could be used for mosquitoes bred on special farms in 11 countries as part of the World Mosquito Program funded by the former President of Microsoft. Under this project, mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia pipientis (wMel) bacterium are bred and released. Thanks to this bacterium, mosquitoes acquire resistance to diseases such as dengue fever, yellow fever or Zika virus, and most importantly – they are not able to infect humans with the aforementioned diseases.
Wolbachia is an extremely common bacterium, which is estimated to occur naturally in 40-60% of arthropods, including some mosquitoes, fruit flies, moths, dragonflies, and butterflies. Risk assessments confirm that Wolbachia-infected Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes pose negligible threat to humans or the environment. The first mosquitoes were released in 2011, and thanks to the program in Indonesia, it was possible to reduce the number of cases of dengue by 77%, and the number of admissions to the hospital due to this disease by 86%. This program is a source of inspiration for conspiracy communities, which for years have created numerous conspiracy theories referring to the “true” intentions of the billionaire.
Numerous false accusations
In 2000, the founder of Microsoft, with assets in excess of $100 billion, founded the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the main goal of which is to combat infectious diseases plaguing developing countries. This activity has become the grounds for never-ending suspicion as to the millionaire’s intentions and, consequently, the formation of numerous conspiracy theories. After a fake translation of the 2015 recording titled “Bill Gates on Depopulation Plans, March 2015” and the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, with which the philanthropist was linked in many conspiracy theories, for many people he became the epitome of evil.
In Poland, accusations of gruesome intentions are formed not only in anonymous posts on social networks, but also, among others, by MP Grzegorz Braun, Justyna Socha or Maciej Pawlicki, a journalist of “Sieci” weekly. The multitude of false accusations and conspiracy theories against Bill Gates in many countries led to mass protests in Montana in May 2020. Protesters demanded that Bill Gates be arrested for alleged crimes against humanity.
The insect caught in this video has a typical species-specific colouration and there is no reason to believe that the pattern was deliberately applied by human. “Bill Gates’ Mosquitoes” are specially bred and released mosquitoes infected with a bacterium that makes them resistant to infection with many dangerous viruses. Thanks to this immunity, they are unable to transfer these diseases to humans. These mosquitoes have no external characteristics and are released only in countries where dengue fever, Zika or yellow fever viruses are a threat to the population. These mosquitoes have nothing to do with the aphids visible in the video.