Culex quinquefasciatus Say (Diptera: Culicidae) is an abundant urban mosquito that is the vector of filariasis. Breeding in septic tanks, where there are very high levels of bacterial food, it is likely to have a different reaction to crowding compared with other mosquitoes. To test for the presence and type of crowding effects, four larval densities of C. quinquefasciatus varying from 0.4 to 3.2 larvae ml-1 of water were reared in tubes. Mortality was found to greatly increase at densities above 0.8 larvae, whereas larval duration increased even above 0.4 larvae ml-1. Changing the water in the tubes daily gave a small (but significant) response in reducing mortality and larval duration. However, when larvae kept at a low density shared the same water with larvae at high density, there was no chemical influence on their growth rate and mortality. The effect of crowding was primarily due to physical disturbances between larvae. When larvae were kept at a high density in the same volume of water, but in shallow trays with a large surface area and therefore much less contact between them, mortality was the same as for the lowest density. There was still, however, a significant increase in larval duration from 8.6 days at 0.4 larvae ml-1 to 12.1 days at 3.2 larvae ml-1. It is therefore concluded that the larvae respond to physical rather than chemical factors by prolonging larval development and having some increase in mortality.
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