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Urban Light pollution may extend mosquitoes’ biting season

Found interesting research by Ohio State University researchers who have discovered that urban light pollution, or artificial light at night, may disrupt mosquitos' dormancy period, causing the insects to remain dormant longer but then more active well into the fall.

This study and earlier findings are among the first to show that artificial light at night could have a significant impact on mosquito behavior – including effects that aren’t necessarily predictable. “We’re finding that the same urban light at night can have very different effects under different seasonal contexts,” researchers explained. 

The researchers observed consistent trends in activity-related effects of light at night, with slight increased activity among the dormant mosquitoes and slightly suppressed activity among long-day mosquitoes expected to be busy looking for food. Though the findings weren’t statistically significant, but the combined observations suggest light pollution causes mosquitoes to ward off diapause – perhaps by scrambling signals from their circadian clock.

“This could be bad for mammals in the short term because mosquitoes are potentially biting us later in the season, but it could also be bad for mosquitoes in the long term because they might be failing to fully engage in preparatory activities they need to survive the winter during diapause, and that might reduce their survival rate,” researchers said. 

The researchers plan to carry out field studies to see if these lab findings hold true in the wild.

Source: This work was funded by the National Science Foundation, state and federal funds appropriated to Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

This article belongs to A Commemorative Issue in Appreciation of Professor David L. Denlinger: Great Advances in Insect Physiology. Denlinger is professor emeritus of entomology at Ohio State.

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