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Oviposition site selection by the dengue vector Aedes aegypti and its implications for dengue control

  • Author(s): Wong, J
  • Stoddard, ST
  • Astete, H
  • Morrison, AC
  • Scott, TW
  • et al.
Abstract

Background: Because no dengue vaccine or antiviral therapy is commercially available, controlling the primary mosquito vector, Aedes aegypti, is currently the only means to prevent dengue outbreaks. Traditional models of Ae. aegypti assume that population dynamics are regulated by density-dependent larval competition for food and little affected by oviposition behavior. Due to direct impacts on offspring survival and development, however, mosquito choice in oviposition site can have important consequences for population regulation that should be taken into account when designing vector control programs. Methodology/Principal Findings: We examined oviposition patterns by Ae. aegypti among 591 naturally occurring containers and a set of experimental containers in Iquitos, Peru. Using larval starvation bioassays as an indirect measure of container food content, we assessed whether females select containers with the most food for their offspring. Our data indicate that choice of egg-laying site is influenced by conspecific larvae and pupae, container fill method, container size, lid, and sun exposure. Although larval food positively influenced oviposition, our results did not support the hypothesis that females act primarily to maximize food for larvae. Females were most strongly attracted to sites containing immature conspecifics, even when potential competitors for their progeny were present in abundance. Conclusion/Significance: Due to strong conspecific attraction, egg-laying behavior may contribute more to regulating Ae. aegypti populations than previously thought. If highly infested containers are targeted for removal or larvicide application, females that would have preferentially oviposited in those sites may instead distribute their eggs among other suitable, previously unoccupied containers. Strategies that kill mosquitoes late in their development (i.e., insect growth regulators that kill pupae rather than larvae) will enhance vector control by creating "egg sinks," treated sites that exploit conspecific attraction of ovipositing females, but reduce emergence of adult mosquitoes via density-dependent larval competition and late acting insecticide.

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