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Compared with plant detritus, animal detritus yields higher growth rates, survival, adult mass, and population growth of container-dwelling mosquitoes. It is unclear whether the benefit from animal detritus to larvae results from greater microorganism growth, direct ingestion of animal detritus by larvae, or some other mechanism. We tested alternative mechanisms by which animal detritus may benefit the invasive container-dwelling mosquito Aedes albopictus (Skuse) (Diptera: Culicidae). In the laboratory, larvae were reared under three conditions with access to 1) detritus, but where microorganisms in the water column were reduced through periodic flushing; 2) water column microorganisms, but larvae had no direct access to detritus; or 3) both water column microorganisms and detritus. Access treatments were conducted for three masses of animal detritus: 0.005, 0.010, and 0.020 g. Water column bacterial productivity (measured via incorporation of [H-3]leucine) decreased significantly with flushing and with larval presence. Removing microorganisms through flushing significantly reduced mass of adult mosquitoes (both sexes), and it significantly prolonged developmental times of females compared with treatments where water column microorganisms or microorganisms and detritus were available. Survival to adulthood was greatest when larvae had access to both water column microorganisms and 0.020 g of detritus, but it declined when only water column microorganisms were available or when 0.005 g of detritus was used. These findings indicate both direct (as a food source) and indirect (assisting with decomposition of detritus) roles of microorganisms in producing the benefit of animal detritus to container mosquito larvae.


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