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The effects of forced-egg retention on the blood-feeding behavior and reproductive potential ofCulex pipiens(Diptera: Culicidae)

Journal of Insect Physiology
DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2014.05.014
  • West Nile Virus
  • Drought
  • Fertility
  • Fecundity
  • Vector-Borne Diseases
  • Mathematics


Abstract High rates of West Nile virus (WNV) transmission to humans are associated with exceptionally hot and dry summers. This is paradoxical since the eggs of Culex vectors of WNV depend on the persistence of containers with water, which decline during droughts. We examined the effects of forced-egg retention on the reproductive success of female Culex pipiens as well as behavioral responses, such as likelihood of secondary blood meals. As controls we examined the effects of female age and delayed mating. We found that early mating is essential to achieve reproductive success and, consistent with an “all-or-none” ovipositing strategy, C. pipiens females are able to retain considerable reproductive potential while searching for oviposition sites. Specifically, although forced-egg retention resulted in significant decreases in fitness, the decline was moderate for 5weeks and most can be accounted for by increases in female age. Consequently, no females took blood more than once per gonotrophic cycle, which eliminates the possibility that heightened vectorial capacity due to multiple blood-feedings increases WNV transmission during periods of drought. Instead, our findings suggest that during droughts populations of C. pipiens have time to locate the remaining water holes, which are associated with human populations and WNV-competent bird species.

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