A new study discovers what plants Culex pipiens mosquitoes love and hate when it comes to where to lay eggs.
I love science, and I particularly love science when results in studies prove to be simple, sensible, and so easy to put to good use. Case in point: A new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that looks at how leaf litter in water influences the abundance of Culex pipiens mosquitoes.
How is this helpful? C. pipiens is the brand of mosquitoes responsible for transmitting West Nile virus to humans, pets, birds and other wildlife. The study found that different kinds of leaf litter in standing water influences where these mosquitoes decide to lay their eggs and whether or not the hatchlings thrive or flounder.
As it turns out, C. pipiens does a happy dance when it comes to standing water containing leaf litter from two non-native, invasive plants, Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata).
"The invasive honeysuckle was definitely the highest quality habitat in terms of the adult mosquito emergence rates, even when you had very high densities of the larvae," said graduate student Allison Gardner, who led the research with University of Illinois entomology professor Brian Allan and Illinois Natural History Survey entomologist Ephantus Muturi.
Less hospitable environments, they found, came courtesy of standing water littered with matter from the following:
1. Multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora)
2. Native blackberry (Rubus allegheniensis)
"Blackberry was a really poor habitat: It took the larvae a long time to develop and the adult mosquitoes that eventually emerged were small," Allan said. "What's exciting about this is that it suggests that blackberry functions as a kind of ecological trap, enticing mosquitoes to lay their eggs in a place where the larvae are unlikely to survive."
3. Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)
4. Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Future studies will explore whether blackberry leaves can be used to undermine the viability of disease-carrying mosquitoes, Allan said. How great is that? Science put to best poetic and practical use.