Soil pits excavated for home construction are important larval habitats for malaria vectors in certain parts of Africa. Borrow pits in diverse stages of ecological succession in a maize-farming region of Western Ethiopia were surveyed to assess the relationships between stage of succession and the structure and composition of invertebrate and plant communities, with particular attention to Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. coustani, the primary local malaria vectors. An array of 82 borrow pits was identified in a multi-lobed drainage basin in the community of Woktola. Each pit was evaluated on its physical features and by faunal and floral surveys during August, 2011, at the height of the longer rainy season (kiremt). Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. coustani were the sole immature anophelines collected, often coexisting with Culex spp. Sedges were the most common plants within these pits, and included Cyperus elegantulus, C. flavescens, C. erectus and C. assimilis. The legume Smithia abyssinica, Nile grass (Acroceras macrum), cutgrass (Leersia hexandra), clover (Trifolium spp.), and the edible herb Centella asiatica, were also common in these habitats. No plant species in particular was strongly and consistently predictive of the presence or absence of mosquito immatures, particularly with regard to An. coustani. The presence of An.gambiae s.l. immatures in borrow pit habitats was negatively correlated with the presence of backswimmers (Notonectidae) (Z = -2.34, P = 0.019). Young (freshly excavated) borrow pits more likely contained immature An. gambiae s.l. (Z =-2.86, P=0.004). Ecological succession was apparent in older pits, and as they aged, they became less likely to serve as habitats for An. gambiae s.l. (Z=0.26, P=0.796), and more likely to support An. coustani (Z=0.728, P=0.007). As borrow pits age they become less suitable for An. gambiae s.l. breeding and more likely to harbor An. coustani. The abundance of notonectids in habitats was a negative indicator for An. gambiae s.l. abundance. Plant species are not reliable indicators for the presence or absence of malaria vectors in borrow pits.
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Vol. 39 • No. 2