Mosquitoes in the Culex pipiens complex are competent vectors of West Nile virus (WNV; family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus) in the laboratory, and field-collected mosquitoes have tested positive for the virus in California and elsewhere. A better understanding of Cx. pipiens complex blood-feeding patterns will help define the threat that these mosquitoes pose to human health and their role in WNV amplification in northern California. We collected blood-engorged Cx. pipiens complex mosquitoes from resting sites near and away from human habitation in Sacramento and Yolo Counties. Cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene sequences were used to identify the vertebrate species from which blood meals were taken. Of 330 engorged mosquitoes collected at 28 sites from June through August 2007 and May through August 2008, >99% fed on an avian host. Three mosquitoes contained bovine blood and none had fed on a human. American Robins (Turdus migratorius) were bitten most often, and the proportion of American Robin blood meals increased significantly over the summer. Other important avian hosts included House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus), Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica), Western Meadowlarks (Sturnella neglecta), and Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura). In rural areas, Barn Swallows, Brewer's Blackbirds (Euphagus cyanocephalus), and House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were frequent hosts. In settings near human habitation, Mourning Doves and Western Meadowlarks were common hosts. Our data indicate that in north central California mosquitoes in the Cx. pipiens complex may be more important as epiornitic than epidemic vectors of WNV.
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Vol. 48 • No. 2