Does the Photoperiod of Male Mosquitoes Affect Female Longevity?

Christiana Arkorful-Bondzie
Undergraduate (Entomology)
Dr. Megan Meuti

Females of the Northern house mosquito, Culex pipiens, transmit West Nile virus to humans and animals throughout the summer. However, during the fall and winter females do not bite or transmit disease but survive the winter in a hibernation-like state called diapause. The male mosquitoes do not survive the winter, but instead mate with females in the fall who store their sperm inside of specialized organs called spermathecae. Diapause in female mosquitoes is a seasonal response that occurs in mosquitoes once they are exposed to short-day, winter-like conditions. Female mosquitoes that enter diapause cease blood feeding behaviors, halting disease transmission. Although males do not survive the winter, they change their seminal fluids in response to seasonal cues. Additionally, mated females of the yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, live longer than virgin females. We therefore hypothesize that seasonal changes in the seminal fluids of the male influences the survival of the female mosquitoes. To determine whether the seasonal conditions the males were exposed to affected female longevity, long and short day-reared females were allowed to mate with long or short day-reared males and female survival was monitored weekly. Additionally, the longevity of virgin long day (LD) and short day (SD) females was also measured. Our preliminary data show that SD females had a relatively longer lifespan than LD females, but the photoperiod of the male does not seem to influence female longevity. Determining whether male mosquitoes can influence female longevity and gene expression will not only allow us to better understand the reproductive biology of Cx. pipiens, but may also uncover new ways that we can control this important disease vector.