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Mosquito Management: Flower Attraction Could Be Utilized to Reduce Disease and Improve Pest Control

Jan 06, 2016 06:37 PM EST

Some mosquitoes prefer to lay their eggs in water sources near flowers, a preference researchers theorize could be exploited to mitigate the spread of mosquito-transmitted diseases – yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya – and lead to improved pest control.

A team of researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the University of Florida focused on the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) and its egg-laying habits to determine whether the presence of flowers would impact where the insects laid their eggs.

"One of the potential outcomes of this study might be that someone could look at the flower fragrances as a way to lure egg-laying female mosquitoes to some sort of trap," Dr. Phil Kaufman, one of the study researchers from the University of Florida, said in a news release.

When female mosquitoes were fed a bloodmeal and released in large cages with water containers near flowering buttterfly bushes (Buddleja davidii) – a plant chosen for its year-round growth and mosquito appeal – researchers found that the mosquitoes laid significantly more eggs in them than in containers that lacked flowers.

"This study provides evidence of the attractiveness of flowering butterfly bushes to ovipositing (i.e., egg-laying) Aedes albopictus," Dr. Timothy Davis, one of the study's co-authors, added in a statement. "Ovipositing mosquitoes are those that have taken a bloodmeal and, in instances where pathogen transmission is occurring, are the potential vectors as they may have acquired the pathogen through the bloodmeal. Therefore, exploiting the attractiveness of flowering butterfly bushes in developing control techniques could assist in stopping pathogen transmission."

But why do these mosquitoes prefer flowers? Aside from its sweet taste, flower nectar is a valuable energy source which benefits pregnant females and their offspring.

The study was recently published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

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