A semi-nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was evaluated for detection of Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus in infected mosquitoes stored under simulated northern Australian summer conditions. The effect of silica gel, thymol, and a combination of the two on RNA stability and virus viability in dead mosquitoes were also examined. While JE virus RNA was relatively stable in mosquitoes held for up to 14 days after death, viable virus was not detected after day 1. Thymol vapor inhibited fungal contamination. Detection of single mosquitoes infected with JE virus in large pools of mosquitoes was also investigated. Single laboratory-infected mosquitoes were detected in pools of < or = 200 mosquitoes and in pools diluted to 0.2/100 and 0.1/100 mosquitoes, using the semi-nested PCR. However, the ability to detect live virus decreased as pool size increased. The semi-nested PCR proved more expensive than virus isolation for pools of 100 mosquitoes. However, the semi-nested PCR was faster and more economical using larger pools. Results indicate that surveillance of JE virus in mosquitoes using the semi-nested PCR is an alternative to monitoring seroconversions in sentinel pigs.