A study by NEIKER identifies 21 species of mosquitoes in the Basque Country and highlights the public health risks of urban development


The research, conducted as part of the LIFE IP Urban Klima 2050 project, is essential to understand the role of mosquitoes in disease transmission and the need to develop sustainable management strategies to mitigate these risks.

A study carried out by NEIKER, the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development, has identified a total of 21 species of mosquitoes in urban green spaces in the Basque Country, and highlights the importance of these insects for public health and ecological balance. The research “Mosquitoes in urban green spaces and cemeteries in northern Spain” is part of the LIFE IP Urban Klima 2050 project, specifically action C.3.1. on Integrating climate change into health policies.

According to the study by NEIKER’s Department of Animal Health, as Europe becomes increasingly developed, urban green spaces and cemeteries are becoming vital habitats for various mosquito species. These places foster breeding grounds and increase the risk of disease transmission.

The research carried out in 2019 and 2020 in the three capitals of the Basque Country studied the species composition, abundance, larval habitats and host preferences of the mosquitoes. CDC traps and dipping were used, and a total of 21 mosquito species were identified, with Culex pipiens s.l. being the most abundant and widespread. Three ecological forms of this species were distinguished, with Cx. pipiens pipiens being the most common in both types of areas.

The highest species richness was found in Vitoria-Gasteiz, followed by Donostia-San Sebastián and then Bilbao. Mosquito abundance was significantly higher in green areas compared to cemeteries, and in Donostia/San Sebastian and Bilbao compared to Vitoria-Gasteiz.

The investigation of larval breeding sites highlighted the dominance of Cx. pipiens s.l., especially in semi-artificial ponds, various water-holding containers and drainage systems in green areas. In cemeteries, most larvae were found in flower pots and funerary urns. Seasonal activity exhibited variable peaks in mosquito abundance in the different cities, with a notable increase in July or August. Additionally, blood meal analysis revealed that Cx. pipiens s.l. fed on several common urban avian species.

Implications and recommendations

This study on mosquitoes is essential to understand their role in disease transmission and to design targeted and sustainable management strategies to mitigate the associated risks. Recommendations include:

Finally, Neiker explains that “taking into account that climate change is a fact, as shown by the increasingly frequent and intense heat waves, we must be vigilant and prepared for the changes that may occur in the coming years”.