An improved knowledge of mosquito life history could strengthen malaria vector control efforts that primarily focus on killing mosquitoes indoors using insecticide treated nets and indoor residual spraying. Natural sugar sources, usually floral nectars of plants, are a primary energy resource for adult mosquitoes but their role in regulating the dynamics of mosquito populations is unclear. To determine how the sugar availability impacts Anopheles sergentii populations, mark-release-recapture studies were conducted in two oases in Israel with either absence or presence of the local primary sugar source, flowering Acacia raddiana trees. Compared with population estimates from the sugar-rich oasis, An. sergentii in the sugar-poor oasis showed smaller population size (37,494 vs. 85,595), lower survival rates (0.72 vs. 0.93), and prolonged gonotrophic cycles (3.33 vs. 2.36 days). The estimated number of females older than the extrinsic incubation period of malaria (10 days) in the sugar rich site was 4 times greater than in the sugar poor site. Sugar feeding detected in mosquito guts in the sugar-rich site was significantly higher (73%) than in the sugar-poor site (48%). In contrast, plant tissue feeding (poor quality sugar source) in the sugar-rich habitat was much less (0.3%) than in the sugar-poor site (30%). More important, the estimated vectorial capacity, a standard measure of malaria transmission potential, was more than 250-fold higher in the sugar-rich oasis than that in the sugar-poor site. Our results convincingly show that the availability of sugar sources in the local environment is a major determinant regulating the dynamics of mosquito populations and their vector potential, suggesting that control interventions targeting sugar-feeding mosquitoes pose a promising tactic for combating transmission of malaria parasites and other pathogens.
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