By Michelle Evans, Siddharth Bhatnagar, John Drake, Courtney Murdock, and Shomen Mukherjee,
Cities provide an ideal combination of conditions for mosquito-borne disease: dense human populations, habitat for mosquito larvae, and temperatures suitable for mosquitoes. Patterns in these factors, sometimes as fine as the scale of a city block, can lead to patterns in disease risk. However, urban areas are regions where both social and ecological dynamics interact to shape the environment. Therefore, an approach that includes both natural and social sciences may help us better understand mosquito-borne disease in urban areas.
In this study, we present an approach that bridges multiple disciplines and ways of knowing to understand patterns in mosquito-borne disease across different levels of urbanization in Bengaluru, India. We combine conventional entomological sampling of mosquitoes with in-depth interviews with residents about their experiences with mosquitoes. We purposefully give equal weight to these two types of data, treating residents of the study area as experts capable of providing knowledge of equal value as specialized entomological sampling. This allows us to understand differences in mosquito diversity and abundance within their social context. We also identify instances where differences in mosquito communities do and do not correspond to differences in peoples’ experiences with mosquitoes.
We found that there was a higher diversity of mosquitoes in the least urban sites and found no evidence for a difference in mosquito abundance across the urban gradient. However, people differed in their ability to mediate their exposure to mosquitoes in ways that did not necessarily correspond with sampled mosquito abundance. For example, people who rely on outdoor spaces for their domestic activities may feel more vulnerable to mosquito-borne disease than those who use outdoor spaces solely for leisure, even if mosquito abundances are higher in the latter case. We suggest that considering both social and ecological factors when deciding how to allocate mosquito control could lead to more equitable disease outcomes.