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Spinosad is a naturally derived biorational insecticide with an environmentally favourable toxicity profile, so we investigated its potency against mosquito larvae (Diptera: Culicidae). By laboratory bioassays of a suspension concentrate formulation of spinosad (Tracer®), the 24 h lethal concentration (LC50) against Aedes aegypti (L.) third and fourth instars was estimated at 0.025 p.p.m. following logit regression. The concentration–mortality response of third- and fourth-instar Anopheles albimanus Weidemann did not conform to a logit model. The LC50 value of spinosad in Anopheles albimanus was 0.024 p.p.m. by quadratic linear regression. A field trial in southern Mexico demonstrated that spinosad 1 p.p.m. compared with the standard temephos (Abate®) 1% granules 100 g/m3 water prevented Ae. aegypti breeding in plastic containers of water for 8 weeks; at 10 p.p.m. spinosad prevented breeding for > 22 weeks. In another field trial, spinosad at 5 p.p.m. and temephos both completely eliminated reproduction of Ae. aegypti for 13 weeks. In contrast, the bacterial insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti, Vectobac® AS) performed poorly with just 2 weeks of complete inhibition of Ae. aegypti breeding. Spinosad also effectively prevented breeding of Culex mosquitoes and chironomids in both trials to a degree similar to that of temephos. We conclude that spinosad merits evaluation as a replacement for organophosphate or Bti treatment of domestic water tanks in Mesoamerica. We also predict that spinosad is likely to be an effective larvicide for treatment of mosquito breeding sites.