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The effects of oviposition-site deprivation on Anopheles gambiae reproduction

Kathryne L Dieter, Diana L Huestis and Tovi Lehmann*

Author Affiliations

Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 12735 Twinbrook Parkway, Room 2W-09-C, Rockville, MD, 20852, USA

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Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:235  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-235

Published: 16 October 2012



The African malaria mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, depends on availability of suitable surface water for oviposition. Short and long dry spells occur throughout the year in many parts of its range that limit its access to oviposition sites. Although not well understood, oviposition-site deprivation has been found to rapidly reduce egg batch size and hatch rate of several mosquito species. We conducted laboratory experiments to assess these effects of oviposition-site deprivation on An. gambiae and to evaluate the role of nutrition and sperm viability as mediators of these effects.


Anopheles gambiae adults (1–2 d old) from the G3 laboratory colony were assigned to the following treatment groups: oviposition-deprived (fed once and then deprived of oviposition site for 7 or 14 d), multiple-fed control (fed regularly once a week and allowed to lay eggs without delay), and age matched blood-deprived control (fed once, three days before water for oviposition was provided). Egg batch size and hatch rate were measured. In the second experiment two additional treatment groups were included: oviposition-deprived females that received either a second (supplemental) blood meal or virgin males (supplemental mating) 4 days prior to receiving water for oviposition.


An. gambiae was highly sensitive to oviposition-site deprivation. Egg batch size dropped sharply to 0–3.5 egg/female within 14 days, due to reduced oviposition rate rather than a reduced number of eggs/batch. Egg hatch rate also fell dramatically to 0-2% within 7 days. The frequency of brown eggs that fail to tan was elevated. A supplemental blood meal, but not ‘supplemental insemination,’ recovered the oviposition rate of females subjected to oviposition-site deprivation. Similarly, a supplemental blood meal, but not ‘supplemental insemination,’ partly recovered hatch rate, but this increase was marginally significant (P < 0.069).


Even a short dry spell resulting in oviposition-site deprivation for several days may result in a dramatic decline of An. gambiae populations via reduced fecundity and fertility. However, females taking supplemental blood meals regain at least some reproductive success. If mosquitoes subjected to oviposition-site deprivation increase the frequency of blood feeding, malaria transmission may even increase during a short dry spell. The relevance of oviposition-site deprivation as a cue to alter the physiology of An. gambiae during the long dry season is not evident from these results because no reduction in hatch rate was evident in wild M-form An. gambiae collected in the dry season in the Sahel by previous studies.

Anopheles gambiae; Dry season; Drought; Hatch rate; Malaria; Reproduction; Seasonality; Vectorial capacity; Oviposition; Fecundity