Caputo B, Langella G, Petrella V, Virgillito C, Manica M, Filipponi F, Bellini R, Puggioli A et al.
PLoS Negl Trop Dis 15(9): e0009698. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0009698
In the last decades, the colonization of Mediterranean Europe and of other temperate regions by Aedes albopictus created an unprecedented nuisance problem in highly infested areas and new public health threats due to the vector competence of the species. The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) and the Incompatible Insect Technique (IIT) are insecticide-free mosquito-control methods, relying on mass release of irradiated/manipulated males, able to complement existing and only partially effective control tools. The validation of these approaches in the field requires appropriate experimental settings, possibly isolated to avoid mosquito immigration from other infested areas, and preliminary ecological and entomological data. We carried out a 4-year study in the island of Procida (Gulf of Naples, Italy) in strict collaboration with local administrators and citizens to estimate the temporal dynamics, spatial distribution, and population size of Ae. albopictus and the dispersal and survival of irradiated males. We applied ovitrap monitoring, geo-spatial analyses, mark-release-recapture technique, and a citizen-science approach. Results allow to predict the seasonal (from April to October, with peaks of 928–9,757 males/ha) and spatial distribution of the species, highlighting the capacity of Ae. albopictus population of Procida to colonize and maintain high frequencies in urban as well as in sylvatic inhabited environments. Irradiated males shown limited ability to disperse (mean daily distance travelled <60m) and daily survival estimates ranging between 0.80 and 0.95. Overall, the ecological characteristics of the island, the acquired knowledge on Ae. albopictus spatial and temporal distribution, the high human and Ae. albopictus densities and the positive attitude of the resident population in being active parts in innovative mosquito control projects provide the ground for evidence-based planning of the interventions and for the assessment of their effectiveness. In addition, the results highlight the value of creating synergies between research groups, local administrators, and citizens for affordable monitoring (and, in the future, control) of mosquito populations.