Mark-release-recapture of male Aedes aegypti (Diptera: Culicidae): Use of rhodamine B to estimate movement, mating and population parameters in preparation for an incompatible male program

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Jun 7;15(6):e0009357. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009357. eCollection 2021 Jun.


Rapid advances in biological and digital support systems are revolutionizing the population control of invasive disease vectors such as Aedes aegypti. Methods such as the sterile and incompatible insect techniques (SIT/IIT) rely on modified males to seek out and successfully mate with females, and in doing so outcompete the wild male population for mates. Currently, these interventions most frequently infer mating success through area-wide population surveillance and estimates of mating competitiveness are rare. Furthermore, little is known about male Ae. aegypti behaviour and biology in field settings. In preparation for a large, community scale IIT program, we undertook a series of mark- release-recapture experiments using rhodamine B to mark male Ae. aegypti sperm and measure mating interactions with females. We also developed a Spatial and Temporally Evolving Isotropic Kernel (STEIK) framework to assist researchers to estimate the movement of individuals through space and time. Results showed that ~40% of wild females captured daily were unmated, suggesting interventions will need to release males multiple times per week to be effective at suppressing Ae. aegypti populations. Males moved rapidly through the landscape, particularly when released during the night. Although males moved further than what is typically observed in females of the species, survival was considerably lower. These unique insights improve our understanding of mating interactions in wild Ae. aegypti populations and lay the foundation for robust suppression strategies in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aedes / physiology*
  • Animal Distribution*
  • Animal Identification Systems / methods*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Mosquito Control / methods
  • Population Dynamics
  • Rhodamines / chemistry*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Rhodamines
  • rhodamine B

Grants and funding

This work was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC 1082127). NB received this award Project partners at Verily Life Sciences provided assistance in study design and reviewed the final manuscript but played no role in data collection, analysis or the decision to publish.