The way that the malaria vectors Anopheles arabiensis and An.gambiae survive the dry season in sub-saharan Sahel or northern Savanna areas of Africa remains enigmatic. We examined this problem by calculating the effective sizes (Ne) of An.arabiensis populations for several locations in West Africa. An indirect/genetic procedure was used, comparing gene frequencies at several time intervals. The amount of drift which occurred provides an estimate of Ne. Most estimates of Ne were approximately 2000 individuals, probably close to the yearly minimum. This supports the hypothesis that populations of An.arabiensis in this region are continuous throughout the year, with many individuals surviving through the dry season, perhaps in a physiologically altered state, rather than extinction or severe bottlenecks during the dry season, followed by recolonization by a few individual survivors or immigrants in the subsequent rainy season.