Males of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes formed swarms in the laboratory, triggered by the onset of the photophase or by the presence of odors from a rat (which is a potential host for females). The swarm attracted both males and females and increased mating activity. The number of copulas per mosquito was positively correlated with the number of mosquitoes in the swarm and with the duration of the swarm. Swarming and mating activity increased with the presence of a host for females. Young sexually immature males, less than 24 h old, flew but did not swarm nor copulate. Observations using an olfactometer showed that swarming males produced a volatile pheromone that stimulates the flying activity of females at a distance. Females also produce a volatile attractant. The results suggest that males, and possibly also females, produce an aggregation pheromone that attracts males and females towards the swarm. The characteristics of the pheromone-mediated swarm may be described as a 3-dimensional lek. Our results suggest that the development of pheromone-based control systems and/or pheromone traps for the monitoring of vector populations is feasible, adding a new tool to combat this vector of several human pathogens.
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