Knowledge of density-dependent processes and how they are mediated by environmental factors is critically important for understanding population and community ecology of insects, as well as for mitigating harmful insect-borne diseases. Here, we tested whether the oviposition of chironomids (Diptera: Chironomidae; non-biting midges), known to carry the Cholera pathogen Vibrio cholerae, is density dependent and if it is mediated by habitat availability. We used two multiple choice experiments in habitat-limited and habitat-unlimited environments and performed isodar analysis on counts of egg batches after controlling the polarization of light reflected from the habitats, which is known to affect their attractiveness to ovipositing chironomids. We found that, when habitats are limited, egg batch isodars indicate that chironomid selection is density dependent. Although a greater number of individuals selected to oviposit in highly polarized sites, oviposition was also common in sites with low polarization. When habitats are unlimited, chironomid selection is either weakly density dependent, or completely density independent. Chironomids oviposit to a very large extent in sites with high level of polarization, oviposit to a small extent in sites with medium level of polarization, and almost completely disregard unpolarized sites. We suggest that ovipositing females consider the availability of habitats in their surroundings when they choose an oviposition site. When high quality habitats are scarce, more females opt to breed in low quality sites. These findings may be used to limit the spread of Cholera by controlling the habitats available for chironomid oviposition.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgments We thank Ofer Shoer from Palgei-Maim Ltd. for use of the facilities at the waste stabilization pond and Jon Martin for genetically identifying C. transvaalensis. We deeply appreciate the assistance of Dr. Edward Peltzer in our statistical analysis and inference. This study was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) through grant no.1527/07.
- Egg batches
- Habitat selection
- Polarization vision
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics