Overwintering populations of Culex pipiens, the principal enzootic vector of West Nile virus in the northeastern USA, were studied over 3 consecutive winters from 2006 to 2008, using mark–recapture techniques to determine when Cx. pipiens females began to disperse from overwintering hibernacula and how their survival influenced early season populations. In February of each year, Cx. pipiens were aspirated and marked using fluorescent powder; 4,067, 752, and 3,070 diapausing Cx. pipiens were marked in each successive year. Mosquitoes were then trapped from mid-April to early May of each year using 19 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) light traps and 16 CDC gravid traps. A total of 348, 39, and 111 Culex mosquitoes were captured in the spring of 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively. The number of mosquitoes marked in overwintering habitats is generally positively correlated with the number of mosquitoes recaptured in the early spring (linear regression, R2 = 0.79, P = 0.04), yet results also suggest that seasonal variations beyond overwintering population size are likely important in determining the success of emergent populations. A single marked Cx. pipiens was captured in both 2006 and 2008. In 2006, the mosquito was captured 0.5 km from its overwintering site while in 2008 the mosquito was captured 0.3 km from its overwintering site. In all study years, mosquitoes consistently began exiting overwintering hibernacula the 3rd week of April, yet evidence of earlier exodus was observed in 2007, when outside temperatures were significantly higher in preceding days and months.
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