For the majority of native species, human-created habitats provide a hostile environment that prevents their colonization. However, if the conditions encountered in this novel environment are part of the fundamental niche of a particular species, these low competitive environments may allow strong population expansion of even rare and stenotopic species. If these species are potentially harmful to humans, such anthropogenic habitat alterations may impose strong risks for human health. Here, we report on a recent and severe outbreak of the viciously biting and day-active mosquito Anopheles plumbeus Stephens, 1828, that is caused by a habitat shift toward human-created habitats. Although historic data indicate that the species was previously reported to be rare in Belgium and confined to natural forest habitats, more recent data indicate a strong population expansion all over Belgium and severe nuisance at a local scale. We show that these outbreaks can be explained by a recent larval habitat shift of this species from tree-holes in forests to large manure collecting pits of abandoned and uncleaned pig stables. Further surveys of the colonization and detection of other potential larval breeding places of this mosquito in this artificial environment are of particular importance for human health because the species is known as a experimental vector of West Nile virus and a potential vector of human malaria.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4