1. Inputs of animal and plant detritus are the main energy sources for food webs in a number of isolated container systems, including discarded automobile tyres and tree holes. Containers are dominated by mosquitoes in the genera Culex and Aedes, which among other differences often engage in different foraging behaviours. We hypothesised that because Aedes feed more by browsing surfaces, whereas Culex often filter the water column, these mosquitoes would show variation in performance and differentially affect detritus. Effects of different ratios of animal and plant detritus on survival, mass, and development time for two common container mosquito species, Culex restuans L. and Aedes albopictus Skuse, were examined. We also quantified detrital contribution to biomass via isotopic and nutrient analysis and the effect of larvae on detrital decay.
2. Adult male and female mass of both species was highest with some animal detritus and lowest in only leaf detritus. Aedes albopictus survival was higher than C. restuans across most detritus ratios.
3. Aedes albopictus had higher values of 15N and in some cases 13C across all detritus ratios compared with C. restuans; A. albopictus had lower nitrogen in tissue. Aedes albopictus appeared to be more efficient at obtaining potentially limiting nutrients and had a greater overall effect on detrital decay – a possible consequence of greater foraging effort.
4. Findings further support the view that mosquito performance can be influenced by detritus type, and provide a more precise hypothesis (i.e. lower need for nitrogen) that may explain the superior competitive ability of A. albopictus over other container mosquitoes.