The wMelPop strain of Wolbachia is currently being investigated for its potential use as a biological control agent to reduce the ability of Aedes aegypti (L.) mosquitoes to transmit dengue viruses. The survival of a potential wMelPop infected Ae. aegypti strain for field release is important as a higher susceptibility to predation in the wMelPop strain could result in difficulties in achieving fixation. We investigated immature and adult survival as a function of susceptibility to predation by six naturally occurring predator species; cyclopoid copepods, fish, predatory Toxorhynchites mosquito larvae and a salticid jumping spider. The trials indicated that wMelPop infected and uninfected Ae. aegypti larvae and adults were equally susceptible to predation to all six tested predators. In addition to evaluating any potential fitness costs to the infected host, we were unable to demonstrate horizontal transfer of wMelPop via consumption of infected Ae. aegypti larvae to the above predators. That susceptibility to predation was consistent across mosquito life stage, predator species and experimental venue is strong evidence that despite the neurotrophic and extensive nature of wMelPop infection, behavioral changes are not occurring, or at least not a determining factor in survival when exposed to a predator. Based on our results and the ecology of Wolbachia and mosquito predators, horizontal transfer of wMelPop from Ae. aegypti into naturally occurring predators is not cause for concern.
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Vol. 49 • No. 3