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Nightly biting cycles of malaria vectors in a heterogeneous transmission area of eastern Amazonian Brazil

Robert H Zimmerman1*, L Philip Lounibos1, Naoya Nishimura1, Allan KR Galardo2, Clicia D Galardo2 and Mercia E Arruda3

Author Affiliations

1 Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory, University of Florida/IFAS, Vero Beach, Florida, USA

2 Instituto de Pesquisas Científicas e Tecnologicas de Estado do Amapá, Macapá, Amapá, Brazil

3 Department of Immunology, Centro de Pesquisas Aggeu Magalhães, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:262  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-262

Published: 26 July 2013



The biting cycle of anopheline mosquitoes is an important component in the transmission of malaria. Inter- and intraspecific biting patterns of anophelines have been investigated using the number of mosquitoes caught over time to compare general tendencies in host-seeking activity and cumulative catch. In this study, all-night biting catch data from 32 consecutive months of collections in three riverine villages were used to compare biting cycles of the five most abundant vector species using common statistics to quantify variability and deviations of nightly catches from a normal distribution.


Three communities were selected for study. All-night human landing catches of mosquitoes were made each month in the peridomestic environment of four houses (sites) for nine consecutive days from April 2003 to November 2005. Host-seeking activities of the five most abundant species that were previously captured infected with Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium malariae or Plasmodium vivax, were analysed and compared by measuring the amount of variation in numbers biting per unit time (co-efficient of variation, V), the degree to which the numbers of individuals per unit time were asymmetrical (skewness = g1) and the relative peakedness or flatness of the distribution (kurtosis = g2). To analyse variation in V, g1, and g2 within species and villages, we used mixed model nested ANOVAs (PROC GLM in SAS) with independent variables (sources of variation): year, month (year), night (year X month) and collection site (year X month).


The biting cycles of the most abundant species, Anopheles darlingi, had the least pronounced biting peaks, the lowest mean V values, and typically non-significant departures from normality in g1 and g2. By contrast, the species with the most sharply defined crepuscular biting peaks, Anopheles marajoara, Anopheles nuneztovari and Anopheles triannulatus, showed high to moderate mean V values and, most commonly, significantly positive skewness (g1) and kurtosis (g2) moments. Anopheles intermedius was usually, but not always, crepuscular in host seeking, and showed moderate mean V values and typically positive skewness and kurtosis. Among sites within villages, significant differences in frequencies of departures from normality (g1 and g2) were detected for An. marajoara and An. darlingi, suggesting that local environments, such as host availability, may affect the shape of biting pattern curves of these two species.


Analyses of co-efficients of variation, skewness and kurtosis facilitated quantitative comparisons of host-seeking activity patterns that differ among species, sites, villages, and dates. The variable and heterogeneous nightly host-seeking behaviours of the five exophilic vector species contribute to the maintenance of stable malaria transmission in these Amazonian villages. The abundances of An. darlingi and An. marajoara, their propensities to seek hosts throughout the night, and their ability to adapt host-seeking behaviour to local environments, contribute to their impact as the most important of these vector species.

Anopheles; Co-efficient of variation; Host-seeking activity; Kurtosis; Skewness