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      Environmental stochasticity and intraspecific competition influence the population dynamics of Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae)

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          Members of the Culex pipiens complex ( Cx. pipiens quinquefasciatus in Southern USA) play a critical role in the spillover of urban arboviruses such as West Nile virus or St. Louis encephalitis virus. Field studies have shown strong correlation between the periodicity of rainfall events and larval proliferation. However, mechanistic determinants driving this relationship are poorly understood. We hypothesize that rainfall events decrease strain from intraspecific competition through the associated reduction of immature density and the introduction of detritus.


          To address our hypothesis, we used laboratory competition experiments to inform a deterministic matrix projection model consisting of an age-structured larval matrix coupled with a stage-structured adult mosquito matrix . Rain events were simulated in a competition-based metabolic age model and compared to a null model including environmental variability. Variable rain delays in two-event simulations showed optimal proliferation occurring with rain delays between 16 and 21 days when including density-dependent effects.


          These results are comparable to the pattern observed in natural populations, indicating that Cx. quinquefasciatus proliferation rates can be modeled mechanistically as a density-dependent system. The empirical understanding of density-dependence as it relates to environmental stochasticity provides a theoretical platform for the study of larval dynamics and the impact of larval control in this medically relevant disease vector.

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          The online version of this article (10.1186/s13071-018-2711-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

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          Most cited references 47

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          The Study of Population Growth in Organisms Grouped by Stages

           L Lefkovitch (1965)
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            West Nile Virus Risk Assessment and the Bridge Vector Paradigm

            In the northeast United States, control of West Nile virus (WNV) vectors has been unfocused because of a lack of accurate knowledge about the roles different mosquitoes play in WNV transmission. We analyzed the risk posed by 10 species of mosquitoes for transmitting WNV to humans by using a novel risk-assessment measure that combines information on the abundance, infection prevalence, vector competence, and biting behavior of vectors. This analysis suggests that 2 species (Culex pipiens L. and Cx. restuans Theobald [Diptera: Cilicidae]) not previously considered important in transmitting WNV to humans may be responsible for up to 80% of human WNV infections in this region. This finding suggests that control efforts should be focused on these species which may reduce effects on nontarget wetland organisms. Our risk measure has broad applicability to other regions and diseases and can be adapted for use as a predictive tool of future human WNV infections.
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              Local impact of temperature and precipitation on West Nile virus infection in Culex species mosquitoes in northeast Illinois, USA

              Background Models of the effects of environmental factors on West Nile virus disease risk have yielded conflicting outcomes. The role of precipitation has been especially difficult to discern from existing studies, due in part to habitat and behavior characteristics of specific vector species and because of differences in the temporal and spatial scales of the published studies. We used spatial and statistical modeling techniques to analyze and forecast fine scale spatial (2000 m grid) and temporal (weekly) patterns of West Nile virus mosquito infection relative to changing weather conditions in the urban landscape of the greater Chicago, Illinois, region for the years from 2004 to 2008. Results Increased air temperature was the strongest temporal predictor of increased infection in Culex pipiens and Culex restuans mosquitoes, with cumulative high temperature differences being a key factor distinguishing years with higher mosquito infection and higher human illness rates from those with lower rates. Drier conditions in the spring followed by wetter conditions just prior to an increase in infection were factors in some but not all years. Overall, 80% of the weekly variation in mosquito infection was explained by prior weather conditions. Spatially, lower precipitation was the most important variable predicting stronger mosquito infection; precipitation and temperature alone could explain the pattern of spatial variability better than could other environmental variables (79% explained in the best model). Variables related to impervious surfaces and elevation differences were of modest importance in the spatial model. Conclusion Finely grained temporal and spatial patterns of precipitation and air temperature have a consistent and significant impact on the timing and location of increased mosquito infection in the northeastern Illinois study area. The use of local weather data at multiple monitoring locations and the integration of mosquito infection data from numerous sources across several years are important to the strength of the models presented. The other spatial environmental factors that tended to be important, including impervious surfaces and elevation measures, would mediate the effect of rainfall on soils and in urban catch basins. Changes in weather patterns with global climate change make it especially important to improve our ability to predict how inter-related local weather and environmental factors affect vectors and vector-borne disease risk. Local impact of temperature and precipitation on West Nile virus infection in Culex species mosquitoes in northeast Illinois, USA.

                Author and article information

                Parasit Vectors
                Parasit Vectors
                Parasites & Vectors
                BioMed Central (London )
                27 February 2018
                27 February 2018
                : 11
                ISNI 0000 0001 0941 6502, GRID grid.189967.8, Department of Environmental Sciences, , Emory University, ; Atlanta, GA 30322 USA
                © The Author(s). 2018

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

                Funded by: FundRef, Emory University;
                Award ID: URC58626
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                © The Author(s) 2018


                density dependence, vector management, culex quinquefasciatus, population modeling


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