Close encounters: contributions of carbon dioxide and human skin odour to finding and landing on a host in Aedes aegypti



In a wind-tunnel study, the upwind flight and source location of female Aedes aegypti to plumes of carbon dioxide (CO2) gas and odour from human feet is tested. Both odour sources are presented singly and in combination. Flight upwind along the plumes is evident for both CO2 and odour from human feet when the odours are presented alone. Similarly, both odour sources are located by more than 70% of mosquitoes in less than 3 min. When both CO2 and odour from human feet are presented simultaneously in two different choice tests (with plumes superimposed or with plumes separated), there is no evidence that females orientate along the plume of CO2 and only a few mosquitoes locate its source. Rather, the foot odour plume is navigated and the source of foot odour is located by over 80% of female Ae. aegypti. When a female is presented a plume of CO2 within a broad plume of human foot odour of relatively low concentration, the source of CO2 is not located; instead, flight is upwind in the diffuse plume of foot odour. Although upwind flight by Ae. aegypti at long range is presumably induced by CO2 and the threshold of response to skin odours is lowered, our findings suggest that, once females have arrived near a prospective human host, upwind orientation and landing are largely governed by the suite of human odours, whereas orientation is no longer influenced by CO2.