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Biting back – public needed for new mosquito study – University of Reading

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Biting back – public needed for new mosquito study

Release Date 31 May 2013


The University of Reading is asking the local community's help for an important new study that could further our understanding of how diseases that affect our garden birds are transmitted.

Culex pipiens is Britain's commonest garden mosquito and can be found breeding in garden ponds and water butts. The larvae live under the water surface and are known as ‘wrigglers' as they wriggle away when disturbed. The female adults primarily bite birds and have been linked to the transmission of avian diseases in the UK, such as avian pox virus, and human diseases in other countries, such as West Nile Virus.

Susannah Townroe, a researcher in the University's School of Biological Sciences, aims to find out how the breeding of this common species, and potential disease carrier, may be influenced by changes to the climate and urbanisation of the landscape. This will give researchers vital information on how diseases may be transmitted as the world warms and breeding habitats are altered, and also assist in developing potential preventative measures.

Susannah is asking for volunteers to have a mosquito trap set up for a single night in their garden during May, July or September. She will then compare populations from urban gardens with those from traps in surrounding rural gardens to assess various aspects of reproductive success.

Susannah said: "Although we think of mosquitoes to be found mostly in tropical climates culex pipiens is commonly seen in our gardens, especially during the summer. They are known to transmit disease in other countries, such as West Nile Virus in the USA and Continental Europe, which affect birds, horses and humans.

"Previous research suggests that this species may breed earlier, and have greater breeding success, in urban and suburban gardens in Reading than in surrounding rural gardens. This may be due to the warmer urban climate (known as the urban heat island) and the increasing trend to store water in garden water butts which provide an abundance of suitable mosquito breeding habitats in residential areas. However more data is needed to confirm this trend and we are hoping the local community can help.

"Each volunteer will be asked to have the trap in their garden for a single night. This will be a large scale study with lots of volunteers needed (100+) to allow us to sample mosquito populations all across Reading and surrounding rural areas. The results of this study will give important information about the number of times this species breeds throughout the summer season, give an indication on how diseases might be transmitted by mosquitoes in the future, and offer clues on how to mitigate disease transmission."

For more information or to take part in this important study please contact Susannah Townroe by email,


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