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  1. Abstract Laboratory and field-based studies of the invasive mosquito Aedes albopictus demonstrate its competency to transmit over twenty different pathogens linked to a broad range of vertebrate hosts. The vectorial capacity of Ae. albopictus to transmit these pathogens remains unclear, partly due to knowledge gaps regarding its feeding behavior. Blood meal analyses from field-captured specimens have shown vastly different feeding patterns, with a wide range of anthropophagy (human feeding) and host diversity. To address this knowledge gap, we asked whether differences in innate host preference may drive observed variation in Ae. albopictus feeding patterns in nature. Low generation colonies (F2–F4) were established with field-collected mosquitoes from three populations with high reported anthropophagy (Thailand, Cameroon, and Florida, USA) and three populations in the United States with low reported anthropophagy (New York, Maryland, and Virginia). The preference of these Ae. albopictus colonies for human versus non-human animal odor was assessed in a dual-port olfactometer along with control Ae. aegypti colonies already known to show divergent behavior in this assay. All Ae. albopictus colonies were less likely (p < 0.05) to choose the human-baited port than the anthropophilic Ae. aegypti control, instead behaving similarly to zoophilic Ae. aegypti . Our results suggest that variation in reported Ae. albopictus feeding patterns are not driven by differences in innate host preference, but may result from differences in host availability. This work is the first to compare Ae. albopictus and Ae. aegypti host preference directly and provides insight into differential vectorial capacity and human feeding risk. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2024
  2. Abstract Background Public green spaces are important for human health, but they may expose visitors to ticks and tick-borne pathogens. We sought to understand, for the first time, visitors’ exposure risk and drivers of tick-preventative behavior in three popular parks on Staten Island, New York City, NY, USA, by integrating tick hazard and park visitors’ behaviors, risk perceptions and knowledge. Methods We conducted tick sampling in three parks, across three site types (open spaces, the edge of open spaces, and trails) and three within-park habitats (maintained grass, unmaintained herbaceous, and leaf litter) to estimate tick density during May-August 2019. Human behavior was assessed by observations of time spent and activity type in each site. We integrated the time spent in each location by park visitors and the tick density to estimate the probability of human-tick encounter. To assess visitors’ tick prevention behaviors, a knowledge, attitude, and practices (KAP) survey was administered. Results Three tick species ( Ixodes scapularis , Amblyomma americanum and Haemaphysalis longicornis) were collected. For all species, the density of nymphs was greatest in unmaintained herbaceous habitats and trails, however, the fewest people entered these hazardous locations. The KAP survey revealed that most respondents ( N  = 190) identified parks as the main location for tick exposure, but most believed they had minimal risk for tick encounter. Consequently, many visitors did not conduct tick checks. People were most likely to practice tick checks if they knew multiple prevention methods and perceived a high likelihood of tick encounter. Conclusions By integrating acarological indices with park visitor behaviors, we found a mismatch between areas with higher tick densities and areas more frequently used by park visitors. However, this exposure risk varied among demographic groups, the type of activities and parks, with a higher probability of human-tick encounters in trails compared to open spaces. Furthermore, we showed that people’s KAP did not change across parks even if parks represented different exposure risks. Our research is a first step towards identifying visitor risk, attitudes, and practices that could be targeted by optimized messaging strategies for tick bite prevention among park visitors. 
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  3. Kittayapong, Pattamaporn (Ed.)

    Sugar feeding is an important behavior which may determine vector potential of female mosquitoes. Sugar meals can reduce blood feeding frequency, enhance survival, and decrease fecundity, as well as provide energetic reserves to fuel energy intensive behaviors such as mating and host seeking. Sugar feeding behavior can be harnessed for vector control (e.g. attractive toxic sugar baits). Few studies have addressed sugar feeding ofAedes albopictus, a vector of arboviruses of public health importance, including dengue and Zika viruses. To address this knowledge gap, we assessed sugar feeding patterns ofAe.albopictusfor the first time in its invasive northeastern USA range.

    Methodology/Principal findings

    Using the cold anthrone fructose assay with robust sample sizes, we demonstrated that a large percentage of both male (49.6%) and female (41.8%)Ae.albopictusfed on plant or homopteran derived sugar sources within 24 hrs prior to capture. Our results suggest that sugar feeding behavior increases when environmental conditions are dry (high saturation deficit) and may vary by behavioral status (host seeking vs. resting). Furthermore, mosquitoes collected on properties with flowers (>3 blooms) had higher fructose concentrations compared to those collected from properties with few to no flowers (0–3).


    Our results provide the first evidence ofAe.albopictussugar feeding behavior in the Northeastern US and reveal relatively high rates of sugar feeding. These results suggest the potential success for regional deployment of toxic sugar baits. In addition, we demonstrate the impact of several environmental and mosquito parameters (saturation deficit, presence of flowers, host seeking status, and sex) on sugar feeding. Placing sugar feeding behavior in the context of these environmental and mosquito parameters provides further insight into spatiotemporal dynamics of feeding behavior forAe.albopictus, and in turn, provides information for evidence-based control decisions.

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  4. Abstract

    Manipulating mosquito reproduction is a promising approach to reducing mosquito populations and the burden of diseases they carry. A thorough understanding of reproductive processes is necessary to develop such strategies, but little is known about how sperm are processed and prepared for fertilization within female mosquitoes. By employing cryo-electron microscopy for the first time to study sperm of the mosquitoAedes aegypti, we reveal that sperm shed their entire outer coat, the glycocalyx, within 24 hours of being stored in the female. Motility assays demonstrate that as their glycocalyx is shed in the female’s sperm storage organs, sperm transition from a period of dormancy to rapid motility—a critical prerequisite for sperm to reach the egg. We also show that females gradually become fertile as sperm become motile, and that oviposition behavior increases sharply after females reach peak fertility. Together, these experiments demonstrate a striking coincidence of the timelines of several reproductive events inAe. aegypti, suggesting a direct relationship between sperm modification and female reproductive capacity.

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