Research Focus Area 4: Biology, Behavior, and Winter Survival of Mosquito and Tick Vectors in the Northeast

Arthropod disease vectors, and the microbes they harbor, are particularly sensitive to changes in temperature. Researchers in this group are focused on identifying biological and ecological aspects of vector life history in the Northeast. They are also investigating environmental cues triggering diapause, temperature thresholds for overwintering survival, and larval development for targeted tick and mosquito species.

PROJECT AREA: Basic Field Biology of Aedes albopictus, Ixodes scapularis, and Amblyomma americanum in the Northeast

The goal of this project area is to identify biological and ecological aspects of life history, such as blood feeding patterns, foraging ratios, dispersal, and survival, of Aedes albopictus, Ixodes scapularis, and Amblyomma americanum in the Northeast. We know that many critically important aspects of mosquito and tick biology are plastic, varying geographically and environmentally. Understanding these key aspects of life history will not only inform management and control efforts, but will contribute to our modeling efforts and estimates of risk for vector-borne disease transmission in the Northeast by these important species. This work is being conducted in partnership with several public and environmental health agencies in the Northeast, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Virginia Mosquito Control Association, Suffolk County Department of Health Services, and Suffolk County Department of Public Works, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, among others.


Lead Institutions: Columbia University, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, New York State Department of Health

Project Investigators:

  • Philip Armstrong, ScD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Lindsay Baxter, Cornell University
  • Laura Dudley-Plimpton, Columbia University
  • Maria Diuk-Wasser, PhD, Columbia University
  • Maria del Pilar Fernandez, PhD, Columbia University
  • Kara Fikrig, MPH, Cornell University
  • Laura Harrington, PhD Cornell University
  • Chuck Lubelczyk, MS, Maine Medical Center Research Institute
  • Goudarz Molaei, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Kirby Stafford III, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Danielle Tufts, PhD, Columbia University
  • Meredith VanAcker, Columbia University
  • Scott Williams, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

Project-Related Publications:

  • Molaei G, Little EAH. 2020. A case of morphological anomalies in Amblyomma americanum (Acari: Ixodidae) collected from nature. Exp. Appl. Acarol. 81(2):279-285. doi:10.1007/s10493-020-00510-5
  • Molaei G, Little EAH, Stafford III KC, Gaff H. 2020. A seven-legged tick: report of a morphological anomaly in Ixodes scapularis (Ixodidae: Acari) biting a human host from the northeastern United States. Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases. 11(1):101304. doi:10.1016/j.ttbdis.2019.101304

PROJECT AREA: Diapause and Socio-economic population drivers on oviposition behavior and larval distribution of Aedes albopictus in the Northeast

Project Overview: Arthropod disease vectors and the microbes they harbor are particularly sensitive to temperature fluctuations, as the physiology of these organisms is temperature-dependent. In the past few decades, the northeastern U.S. has experienced emergence, reemergence, and range expansion of arthropod vectors, and changes in the frequency of vector-borne diseases, often with severe impacts on the health of humans and domesticated animals and wildlife. Little is known about diapause biology of Ae. albopictus despite the value of this information for understanding range expansion, population size, seasonal population dynamics, and transmission risk for vector-borne pathogens in the region. The focus of this project is to understand the environmental cues triggering diapause, and how responses to these cues vary between Ae. albopictus populations within New York State. This work is being conducted in partnership with the Suffolk County Department of Health Services and the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.


Lead Institutions: Cornell University

Project Investigators:

  • Talya Shragai, Cornell University
  • Laura Harrington, PhD Cornell University

Project-Related Publications:

  • Case E, Shragai T, Morreale SJ, Harrington LC and D. Erickson. 2020. Evaluation of unmanned aerial vehicles and neural networks for integrated mosquito management of Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology. doi:10.1093/jme/tjaa078
  • Shragai T, Harrington LC. 2019. Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) on an invasive edge: abundance, spatial distribution, and habitat usage of larvae and pupae across urban and socioeconomic environmental gradients. Journal of Medical Entomology 56(2):472-482. doi:10.1093/jme/tjy209

PROJECT AREA: Climate and Overwintering Survival of Ticks in the Northeast

Project Overview: Increased temperatures associated with climate change have been predicted to increase tick activity and the northern spread of I. scapularis. Similarly, the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, has been expanding its range northward. An increased understanding of the role of weather on tick survival will allow better predictions of tick abundance and climatic impacts on the abundance and geographical expansion of ticks and their associated diseases. Studies in this project area focus on the overwintering survival of these two tick species in Connecticut and Maine across multiple winter seasons. This work is done in partnership with the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.


Lead Institutions: Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

Project Investigators:

  • Megan Linske, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Chuck Lubelczyk, MS, Maine Medical Center Research Institute
  • Kirby Stafford III, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station
  • Scott Williams, PhD, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station

Project-Related Publications:

  • Linske, MA, Williams SC, Stafford KC, Lubelczyk CB, Welch M, Henderson EF, and Teel P. 2020. Determining effects of winter weather conditions on adult Amblyomma americanum survival in Connecticut and Maine, USA. Insects. 11(1):13. doi:10.3390/insects11010013
  • Linske MA, Stafford III KC, Williams SC, Lubelczyk CB, Welch M, Henderson EF. 2019. Impacts of deciduous leaf litter and snow presence on nymphal Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) overwintering survival in coastal New England, USA. Insects 10(8):227. doi:10.3390/insects10080227