Understanding mosquito dispersal is critically important for vector-borne disease control and prevention. Mark—release—recapture methods using various marking techniques have made substantial contributions to the study of mosquito biology. However, the ability to mark naturally breeding mosquitoes noninvasively and with life-long retention has remained problematic. Here, we describe a method to mark naturally breeding mosquitoes with stable isotopes. Culex pipiens f. molestus mosquitoes were provisioned as larvae in laboratory experiments with 15N-labeled potassium nitrate and 13C-labeled glucose. Larval enrichment was sufficient to differentiate marked adult mosquitoes from unmarked control mosquitoes and the natural source population from Chicago Illinois, using either δ15N or δ13C. Isotopic retention lasted for at least 55 d for adult male and females mosquitoes. There were no consistent effects of isotopic enrichment on immature mosquito survival or adult mosquito body size. We then applied this marking technique to naturally breeding Culex pipiens mosquitoes in suburban Chicago, IL, and for the first time, report successful isotopic enrichment of mosquitoes in the field. This stable isotope marking technique will facilitate studies of mosquito dispersal.
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Vol. 49 • No. 1