Research has shown that sleep-deprived mosquitoes perform worse than their well rested counterparts.
Humans certainly appreciate the need for a good night’s sleep. We don’t really need scientific studies to know that poor sleep normally results in sub-optimal performance the following day, be it mentally or physically. Although much sleep research has focused on humans, there has been less on other animals, with only a few studies looking at insect sleep behaviour. However, honeybees and fruit flies have been observed to exhibit ‘sleep rebound’, the phenomenon of catching up on missed sleep. With mosquitoes being perhaps the key insect of health concern to humans, researchers have set about trying to investigate whether mosquitoes do in fact sleep. If they do, how does the quality of their sleep impact host location and blood feeding?
Determining whether mosquitoes sleep and how to measure it without disturbing them was the initial challenge; when a human walks into a room, mosquitoes are likely to get very aroused as a potential meal has just arrived! Analysing body posture and behaviour using cameras and infrared sensors, researchers first established that mosquitoes can be considered to have entered a sleep-like state when their hind legs droop and their body comes closer to the surface.
The researchers then set up a series of experiments to determine the effect of interrupting the mosquito sleep patterns on host location and blood feeding. Working with Aedes aegypti, which is a day feeder, Culex pipiens, which seeks a meal at dusk, and Anopheles stephensi, which is a nocturnal feeder, the researchers interrupted their normal sleep periods by regularly vibrating their enclosures.
The studies demonstrated that interrupted sleep patterns significantly impacted both host landing and blood feeding. Of the mosquitoes that experienced uninterrupted sleep, 75% of them sought a blood meal, whereas less than 25% of mosquitoes with deprived sleep were interested in a meal. Further research will focus on how this finding can potentially help in mosquito management.
Further reading: Oluwaseun M. Ajayi, Justin M. Marlman, Lucas A. Gleitz, Evan S. Smith, Benjamin D. Piller, Justyna A. Krupa, Clément Vinauger, Joshua B. Benoit. Behavioural and postural analyses establish sleep-like states for mosquitoes that can impact host landing and blood feeding. Journal of Experimental Biology, 2022; DOI: 10.1242/jeb.244032