Blood-feeding ecology of mosquitoes in two zoological gardens in the United Kingdom


Hernandez-Colina, Arturo Gonzalez-Olvera, Merit Lomax, Emily Townsend, Freya Maddox, Amber Hesson, Jenny C. Sherlock, Kenneth Ward, Dawn Eckley, Lindsay Vercoe, Mark Lopez, Javier Baylis, Matthew


Background: Zoological gardens contain unique configurations of exotic and endemic animals and plants that create a diverse range of developing sites and potential sources of blood meals for local mosquitoes. This may imply unusual interspecific pathogen transmission risks involving zoo vertebrates, like avian malaria to captive penguins. Understanding mosquito ecology and host feeding patterns is necessary to improve mosquito control and disease prevention measures in these environments. Methods: Mosquito sampling took place in Chester Zoo for 3 years (2017, 2018, and 2019) and for 1 year in Flamingo Land (2017) using different trapping methods. Blood‑fed mosquitoes were identified and their blood meal was ampli‑ fied by PCR, sequenced, and blasted for host species identification. Results: In total, 640 blood‑fed mosquitoes were collected [Culex pipiens (n = 497), Culiseta annulata (n = 81), Anoph- eles maculipennis s.l. (n = 7), An. claviger (n = 1), and unidentifiable (n = 55)]. Successful identification of the host spe‑ cies was achieved from 159 blood‑fed mosquitoes. Mosquitoes fed on birds (n = 74), non‑human mammals (n = 20), and humans (n = 71). There were mixed blood meals from two hosts (n = 6). The proportions of blood‑fed mosquitoes varied across sampling seasons and sites within the zoos. The use of resting traps and aspiration of vegetation were more efficient techniques for capturing blood‑fed mosquitoes than traps for host‑seeking or gravid mosquitoes. By relating the locations of zoo vertebrates to where fed mosquitoes were trapped, the minimum travelling distances were calculated (13.7 to 366.7 m). Temperature, precipitation, relative humidity, proximity to zoo vertebrate exhibits, and vegetation level were found to be significantly associated with the proportion of captured blood‑fed mosquitoes by generalized linear modelling. Conclusions: Mosquito feeding behaviour in zoos is mainly influenced by time, location (sampling area), tempera‑ ture, and host availability, which highlights the value of mosquito monitoring in complex settings to plan control strategies and potentially reduce inherent disease transmission risks for humans and threatened zoo vertebrates. Keywords: Blood meal, Culex pipiens, Culiseta annulata, Mosquito control, Mosquito dispersal


Parasites & Vectors

Research Themes:

3. Pathogen and Vector Biology