Fondazione Edmund Mach
Culex pipiens mosquito is a species widely spread across Europe and represents a competent vector for many arboviruses such as West Nile virus (WNV), which has been recently circulating in many European countries, causing hundreds of human cases. In order to identify the main determinants of the high heterogeneity in Cx. pipiens abundance observed in Piedmont region (Northwestern Italy) among different seasons, we developed a density-dependent stochastic model that takes explicitly into account the role played by temperature, which affects both developmental and mortality rates of different life stages. The model was calibrated with a Markov chain Monte Carlo approach exploring the likelihood of recorded capture data gathered in the study area from 2000 to 2011; in this way, we disentangled the role played by different seasonal eco-climatic factors in shaping the vector abundance. Illustrative simulations have been performed to forecast likely changes if temperature or density-dependent inputs would change. Our analysis suggests that inter-seasonal differences in the mosquito dynamics are largely driven by different temporal patterns of temperature and seasonal-specific larval carrying capacities. Specifically, high temperatures during early spring hasten the onset of the breeding season and increase population abundance in that period, while, high temperatures during the summer can decrease population size by increasing adult mortality. Higher densities of adult mosquitoes are associated with higher larval carrying capacities, which are positively correlated with spring precipitations. Finally, an increase in larval carrying capacity is expected to proportionally increase adult mosquito abundance.