The effect of aliphatic carboxylic acids on olfaction-based host-seeking of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto

J Chem Ecol. 2009 Aug;35(8):933-43. doi: 10.1007/s10886-009-9668-7. Epub 2009 Jul 23.


The role of aliphatic carboxylic acids in host-seeking response of the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto was examined both in a dual-choice olfactometer and with indoor traps. A basic attractive blend of ammonia + lactic acid served as internal standard odor. Single carboxylic acids were tested in a tripartite blend with ammonia + lactic acid. Four different airflow stream rates (0.5, 5, 50, and 100 ml/min) carrying the compounds were tested for their effect on trap entry response in the olfactometer. In the olfactometer, propanoic acid, butanoic acid, 3-methylbutanoic acid, pentanoic acid, heptanoic acid, octanoic acid, and tetradecanoic acid increased attraction relative to the basic blend. While several carboxylic acids were attractive only at one or two flow rates, tetradecanoic acid was attractive at all flow rates tested. Heptanoic acid was attractive at the lowest flow rate (0.5 ml/min), but repellent at 5 and 50 ml/min. Mixing the air stream laden with these 7 carboxylic acids together with the headspace of the basic blend increased attraction in two quantitative compositions. Subtraction of single acids from the most attractive blend revealed that 3-methylbutanoic acid had a negative effect on trap entry response. In the absence of tetradecanoic acid, the blend was repellent. In assays with MM-X traps, both a blend of 7 carboxylic acids + ammonia + lactic acid (all applied from low density polyethylene-sachets) and a simple blend of ammonia + lactic acid + tetradecanoic acid were attractive. The results show that carboxylic acids play an essential role in the host-seeking behavior of An. gambiae, and that the contribution to blend attractiveness depends on the specific compound studied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Anopheles / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Carboxylic Acids / chemistry*
  • Carboxylic Acids / pharmacology
  • Mosquito Control
  • Smell*


  • Carboxylic Acids
  • Ammonia