ECOLOGY: The Sweet Taste of Death

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Science  04 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5787, pp. 592a
DOI: 10.1126/science.313.5787.592a

Notoriously, female mosquitoes need a meal of blood before laying their eggs. Less well known is that their in-between meals involve snacks of nectar. Müller and Schlein show that in desert areas when there are no other flowering plants available, mosquitoes are attracted to flowering trees. They measured this allure using insect traps baited with flowering and nonflowering branches of various local trees; more than twice as many mosquitoes were caught with flowering branches than with leafy branches or with flowering annual plants. The authors were able to exploit the mosquitoes' thirst for sweets to bring about their demise by spraying acacia trees with a sugar solution that had been spiked with a food dye and the oral insecticide Spinosad, thus almost eliminating them from one oasis. It is possible that this method of localized mosquito control could be used in other types of “nectar deserts,” such as rice paddies. — CA

Int. J. Parasitol. 36, 10.1016/j.ipara.2006.06.008 (2006).

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