SEES 2022: The Effects of Saltwater on Mosquito Breeding

Guest blog: Grace T.

My experiment aims to find the effects of saltwater concentration on mosquito breeding. 

WEEK ONE- June 13-18, 2022

Hypothesis- Mosquitos are more likely to breed in water with the least amount of salt.

All the traps were set up in open Tupperware containers containing-
2.5 cups of tap water, 1 tablespoon of dog kibble, and either 0, 1, or 3 teaspoons of water, depending on which container. (I set up 2 control containers with no water in hopes to find mosquitos easier)

WEEK 2- June 19-25, 2022

By this point, no mosquito larvae or eggs have appeared, and some water had clearly been evaporated or drank, with the most water missing from the container with no salt. I added 1 more cup of water to each and planned to keep observing these initial traps. After adding the water, the traps look about the same as week 1, only with less bait.

WEEK 3- June 26- July 2, 2022

I think some elements led to my experiment failing and having to start  over by making new traps. My neighborhood has lots of stray and outdoor dogs and cats, so using open containers with dog food as bait did not go as planned. I waited two weeks, hoping I could at least get some data from the experiment. However, all I really found out is that dogs and cats greatly prefer water with less salt, as all of the food and water in the unaltered traps were eventually gone. 

I am going to restart my experiment using safe bottle traps in hopes that the animals around me will not be able to access the contents of the traps. Although this has slowed down my process I hope I will be able to get data from the new experiment.


-WEEK 4- July 5-11

I was away for Thursday and Friday of this week, hence the need to use safe bottle traps as mentioned last week. However, without any monitoring, the bottles were all knocked over in a storm. I think having the Tupperware worked in my favor in this way, as they were never knocked over. With less structural stability, the bottle traps fell over in a storm and I will try to combine the positive elements of these traps to make a better trap and yield the best results.

I decided to do a mini- experiment this week on different types of traps, considering the problems I have had so far. I tested them by seeing how they hold up to me throwing a tennis ball at them for stability, and unleashed my dog into them for the problem with animals tuning my experiments. I decided to try the following traps and recorded results on paper. 

The recordings have an “x” under ball if they fell over, and a check mark if they did not. The “x” under dog represents that my dog drank out of the trap.
According to these observations, the best traps are the Tupperware with plastic wrap, and the small bucket. To decide which was best, I thought about the size of my dog-

He is about 35 pounds, and with his size he was unable to reach the small bucket. I think this would make the Tupperware the better choice, as a larger animal could have easily access to a bucket, but not to to the Tupperware, regardless of size.

WEEK 5- July 11-19, 2022

This week I went on vacation! I wanted to be responsible and not allow the possibility of any mosquitos maturing while I was away, so no data for this week.

WEEK 6- July 20-23, 2022

This week I took my results from week 4’s tests on different trap types and made a new experiment with the best traps possible! This time I kept my initial hypothesis and variables the same, and just made minor changes to the experiment setup involving the traps.

I set up three traps, all in the identical Tupperware containers containing 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of dog food. Depending on which part used, I added 0,1,or 3 teaspoons of salt, as labeled in the picture below.

The most important difference from my initial experiment though- is the fact that these traps are mostly covered in plastic wrap, with one corner open so that mosquitos can access the traps.

I really hope that these traps yield better results than my past attempts, so that I can complete my experiment before the end of my internship.

WEEK 7- July 24-24, 2022

I finally found something in my traps! I came outside to very discolored, and strong smelling tupperwares. I started looking through them and found orange and black bugs, shown below. 

I’m not sure what these specimen are, but they definitely had a preference in salt concentration of the water. The results were as follows

  • 0 teaspoons of salt in water- no organisms
  • 1 teaspoon of salt in water- 2 larvae, 1 pupa, 3 adults
  • 3 teaspoons of salt in water- 5 larvae, 4 pupae, 6 adults

I found it very odd that more organisms were found in the salt water, since I would think it would be hard to survive the environment of salt water. I think this specimen may be some sort of extremeophile, that can only reproduce or live in very salty water.

If I were to redo the experiment, I would change my bait, as it was difficult to find organisms with all of the broken down dog kibble in the water.


I found through the process of my experiment that trial and error is an important part of the scientific process. As I encountered hurdles, I had to change my experiment in order to get concise results. I found the type of trap that works best for me, and was able to make observations using this method.

I would like to thank everyone involved with SEES for making this possible and giving me the opportunity to do this research.

About the author: ​​​​​​​Grace is a high school student at Baldwin High School in Pennsylvania. Her virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S .high school ( virtual internship is part of a collaboration between the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES) and the NASA  Texas Space Grant Consortium (TSGC) to extend the TSGC Summer Enhancement in Earth Science (SEES) internship for U.S .high school (

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