We exploited elevation gradients (1,500–2,400 m) ranging from plains to montane areas along the Poudre River and Big Thompson River in the northern Colorado Front Range to determine how mosquito species richness, composition, and abundance change along natural habitat-climate-elevation gradients. Mosquito collections in 26 sites in 2006 by using CO2-baited CDC light traps yielded a total of 7,136 identifiable mosquitoes of 27 species. Commonly collected species included Aedes vexans (Meigen) (n = 4,722), Culex tarsalis Coquillett (n = 825), Ochlerotatus increpitus (Dyar) (n = 546), Ochlerotatus trivittatus (Coquillett) (n = 303), Aedes cinereus Meigen (n = 280), Ochlerotatus melanimon (Dyar) (n = 146), Ochlerotatus dorsalis (Meigen) (n = 67), Culiseta inornata (Williston) (n = 52), Ochlerotatus pullatus (Coquillett) (n = 38), Ochlerotatus spencerii idahoensis (Theobald) (n = 37), and Culex pipiens L. (n = 29). Species richness was highest in plains habitats at elevations below 1,600 m. Numerous species were found exclusively or predominantly at low elevations below 1,700 m [Anopheles earlei Vargas, Anopheles freeborni Aitken, Coquilletidia perturbans (Walker), Culex erythrothorax (Dyar), Cx. pipiens, Culex territans Walker, Oc. dorsalis, Ochlerotatus hendersoni (Cockerell), Oc. melanimon, and Oc. trivittatus], whereas others occurred predominantly at high elevations above 2,300 m [Ae. cinereus, Culiseta incidens (Thomson), Culiseta morsitans (Theoblad), Ochlerotatus cataphylla (Dyar), Ochlerotatus intrudens (Dyar), Oc. pullatus, and Ochlerotatus punctor (Kirby)]. Ae. vexans and Cx. tarsalis were abundant in the plains (<1,600 m; mean June–August temperature >19.5°C), occurred at low abundances in foothills and low montane areas (1,610–1,730 m; 18.0–19.5°C), and they were collected only sporadically in montane areas above 1,750 m (mean June–August temperature <17.5°C). These findings suggest that future climate warming may lead to shifts in distribution patterns of West Nile virus vectors (e.g., Cx. tarsalis) toward higher elevations in Colorado.
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