Although females of most mosquito species are known to use sugar as a necessary source of energy, female Anopheles gambiae Giles sensu stricto are thought to use it facultatively or not at all. However, field evidence of sugar-free living is inconclusive, and the implications for reproductive fitness and vectorial capacity are unknown. To evaluate the role that sugar may play in the ecology of these mosquitoes, mated female An. gambiae in the laboratory were given access to either no food (water only), 10% sucrose, human blood, or human blood 10% sucrose, and comparisons of daily mortality, fecundity, and biting frequency were made. The effect of sugar availability on vectorial capacity and the intrinsic rate of increase, a measure of fitness, then were determined. Females (pooled and individual) given blood sugar lived significantly longer than did those on the other diets. Daily fecundity was higher for females given blood alone than for those fed blood sugar (13 versus 9 eggs per female daily). However, total fecundity and intrinsic rate of increase were not affected by sugar availability. Biting frequency was significantly higher (0.41 versus 0.26 bites per female per day) for females given blood alone. Despite the reduced survivorship, exclusive blood-feeding led to a theoretically higher vectorial capacity for Plasmodium falciparum at 27°C. These data indicate that female An. gambiae could replace sugar with increased blood feeding without suppressing reproductive fitness. Increased blood feeding could, in turn, increase the rate of malaria transmission and may explain the unusual efficiency of this vector.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1