Oviposition Preferences for Infusion-Baited Traps and Seasonal Abundance of Culex Mosquitoes in Southwestern Virginia

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Virginia Tech


Field studies were conducted in southwestern Virginia to determine the bionomics and ovipositional preferences of Culex restuans Theobald and Culex pipiens Linnaeus using ovitraps and gravid traps. Both species have been implicated as enzootic and epizootic vectors of West Nile virus (WNV) and these studies provide information on the relative abundance of gravid mosquitoes.

Ovitraps were used in the summers of 2002 and 2003 to measure the oviposition activity of Culex mosquitoes, mainly Cx. restuans and Cx. pipiens. In 2002, 1,345 egg rafts were collected from 5 traps set at different locations in the New River Valley (NRV). Cx. restuans constituted 93.2% of the catch; the remainder was Cx. pipiens (6.7%) and Cx. salinarius (<1%). In 2003, 4 ovitraps were placed at each of 6 locations in the NRV. Of 9,794 egg rafts collected, Cx. restuans comprised 92.8%, Cx. pipiens 6.5%, and Cx. salinarius <1%. Oviposition patterns were similar in both years. Cx. restuans oviposition was detected about mid-May, and raft numbers were highest in late June and the middle of July and then showed a steady decline throughout the remainder of each season. Cx. pipiens oviposition activity began later in the season and gradually increased, reaching its peak in August. Although the number of egg rafts of Cx. restuans decreased in August and September while the number of Cx. pipiens egg rafts increased, a crossover in the relative abundance of the two species never occurred.

In 2003, the attractiveness of four infusions (cow manure, straw, grass, and rabbit chow) were compared in oviposition traps. For Cx. restuans, the manure infusions collected more egg rafts than the other three infusions for the first four weeks, with two of the weeks showing significance. During week 1, the manure infusions collected significantly more egg rafts than straw (P<0.01), grass (P<0.01), and rabbit (P<0.001). During week 2, manure collected more than grass (P<0.05) and rabbit (P<0.01). The straw and grass infusions yielded the most egg rafts after week 2, and only three weeks showed any significance. When traps began to collect Cx. pipiens, the majority were collected in the straw and grass infusions. During week 6, the hay infusions had significantly more egg rafts when compared to manure (P<0.001) and rabbit infusions (P<0.001) and the grass infusions had significantly more when compared to manure (P<0.05) and rabbit (P<0.01). Week 9 also showed significance when the hay infusions collected significantly more egg rafts than manure and rabbit (P<0.01 and P<0.01, respectively).

The attractiveness of the cow manure and straw infusions were also compared in gravid traps. Because it is difficult to accurately discriminate between Cx. pipiens and Cx. restuans that have been collected as adults in gravid traps, these collections were combined into Culex. More Culex mosquitoes were collected in the manure infusions for the first two weeks (P<0.05). No significant differences were found between the numbers of mosquitoes captured in the traps baited with the different infusions after the second week. The shift observed in oviposition preference for both types of traps may have been due to cooler temperatures in the early part of the season. The straw infusions were aged outdoors for 3 days prior to use, and a sufficient incubation temperature to generate the bacteria producing the attractant chemicals may not have been attained. In addition, the manure lagoon had been drawn down and the consistency of the remaining manure became much drier by this time. No chemicals were ever added to the lagoon, but the draw down may have affected the attractiveness of the manure.



West Nile virus, mosquito abundance, oviposition attractants, Culex pipiens, Culex restuans