Olfactory Memory in the Mosquito Culex Quinquefasciatus

Med Vet Entomol. 2001 Jun;15(2):197-203. doi: 10.1046/j.0269-283x.2001.00304.x.


The cosmotropical urban mosquito Culex quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera: Culicidae) uses chemical cues to locate suitable water pools for oviposition. Although gravid females are innately attracted to or repelled by certain compounds, this study found that an individual mosquito's preferences for these odours could be altered greatly by prior experience. Mosquitoes reared in water containing skatole, at a level normally repellent to ovipositing females, preferred to oviposit in water containing that compound rather than in water with an otherwise attractive odour compound (P-cresol). This behaviour occurred regardless of whether mosquitoes were tested individually or in groups of up to 50 per cage. The F1 progeny of conditioned mosquitoes did not exhibit the parental preference, but were as susceptible to conditioning as their parents. Moreover, rearing mosquitoes in infusions of hay or animal (guinea-pig) faeces produced a similar although less dramatic change, such that the innate propensity for hay infusion could be cancelled by rearing in guinea-pig faeces infusion. The results demonstrated a change in odour preference by Cx. quinquefasciatus following exposure to the odour during development or pupal eclosion, suggesting that some form of larval conditioning or early adult imprinting occurred. Precisely when that conditioning occurred remains to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal / drug effects
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology*
  • Cresols / pharmacology*
  • Culex / drug effects
  • Culex / physiology*
  • Female
  • Memory / physiology
  • Odorants*
  • Oviposition / drug effects
  • Oviposition / physiology
  • Skatole / pharmacology*
  • Smell / physiology


  • Cresols
  • 4-cresol
  • Skatole