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Summary The use of insecticide-treated bednets (ITNs) has been widely adopted as an important method for malaria control. Few data exist on effects of ITNs on mosquito biology and ecology, other than the development of insecticide resistance against the insecticides used. There is no hard evidence that the insecticide resistance recorded is the result of insecticidal use on bednets or from agricultural use. Resistance against pyrethroids, the preferred class of insecticides for ITN use, has been recorded from countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Resistance is expressed as reduced excito-repellency and mortality of mosquitoes exposed to insecticide-treated materials. In the absence of resistance, however, most studies on ITN effects report a reduced survival of adult mosquitoes as well as mass killing. Other effects are highly variable, and shifts in time of biting, feeding site and blood hosts have occasionally been reported, but not in proportion to the scale of ITN use. In general, a reduced sporozoite rate is recorded in ITN programmes. Because many of the anticipated behavioural effects caused by insecticidal use will be avoided by the use of untreated nets, studies on the efficacy of untreated nets are required. Examples are presented in which untreated nets provided a reasonable degree of protection against malaria.