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J Med Entomol. 2000 Nov;37(6):846-53.

The importance of subterranean mosquito habitat to arbovirus vector control strategies in north Queensland, Australia.

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Queensland Institute of Medical Research and University of Queensland, Tropical Health Program, P.O. Royal Brisbane Hospital, Queensland, Australia 4029.


In north Queensland, 14 localities were surveyed for mosquito larvae (third and fourth instar) during summer/autumn and winter from 1996 to 1999. Absolute population numbers in subterranean habitats, mainly service manholes and pits (97%) but also some wells, septic tanks, storm drains, and sumps, were expressed as a proportion of total numbers in these sites plus surface sites within a 100-m radius. When correction factors were applied to subterranean samples, the 472,477 larvae mainly of Aedes tremulus (Theobald) group, Aedes notoscriptus (Skuse), and Aedes aegypti (L.) comprised 78% of the total population. In relation to the proportion of the overall immature mosquito population from subterranean habitats (propsub), linear regression coefficients for minimum temperature, relative humidity, and Mesocyclops copepod prevalence were significant for winter data; but for summer, only relative humidity was significant. Linear regression coefficients for Mesocyclops prevalence approached significance (P = 0.061) in summer. When multiple linear regression was used to model propsub, 68% of the variation was accounted for by relative humidity and the prevalence of Mesocyclops. In the drier and cooler towns, increased use of subterranean sites during winter was caused by reduced availability of surface oviposition sites because of the dry season. In the wetter coastal towns, no such restrictions applied and ambient conditions remained more equitable all year round. Mesocyclops were surprisingly common, particularly in these coastal towns. Release of known numbers of Mesocyclops indicated that 3-sweep netting in service manholes was sensitive down to densities of one Mesocyclops per 10 liters, and overall recovery varied from 1 to 4%. In relation to control, service manholes represent a stable habitat for mosquito (7% positive overall) and Mesocyclops populations. If they remained wet, service manholes positive for mosquito immatures or Mesocyclops during summer/autumn had 96% and 85% chance, respectively, of being positive the following winter. Even allowing for the effect of drying, a mosquito-positive manhole had a 79% chance of remaining positive the following winter. In view of the importance of these sites as refuges from adverse ambient conditions, it is proposed that a winter control strategy using Mesocyclops presents a cost-effective control option to reduce the recolonization of surface sites when conditions become more suitable.

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