Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) host preferences and biting rates in the Netherlands : comparing cattle, sheep and the black-light suction trap

Elbers, A.R.W.; Meiswinkel, R.


Host preference is an important determinant of feeding behaviour in biting insects and a critical component in the transmission of vector-borne diseases. The aim of the study was to quantify Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) host preferences and biting rates using tethered livestock at pasture (a dairy cow and a sheep) and to compare the numbers of biting midges aspirated off them to those captured simultaneously in a black-light suction trap acting as a surrogate host. Culicoides collections were made hourly over seven hours (from five hours before official sunset to two hours after) between 27 May and 19 June, 2013 at a dairy farm (eastern Netherlands). The study involved 13 replicates of a site×host randomised design. Culicoides collected by black-light suction trap and by direct aspiration were identified to species morphologically and age-graded. The C. obsoletus complex, C. dewulfi and C. pulicaris predominated on the back and flanks of the animals, C. punctatus on the belly, and C. chiopterus on the legs. Using comparable collection periods, 9.3 times (95% confidence interval: 8.6-10.0) more Culicoides were caught on the cow than on the sheep and 25.4 times (95% confidence interval: 18.4-35.1) less in the black-light suction trap compared to the sheep. Mean Culicoides biting rates on the cow across the 7-h collection period were 4.6, 3.5, 1.0, 1.0 and 0.5min-1 for C. dewulfi, the C. obsoletus complex, C. chiopterus, C. punctatus and C. pulicaris, respectively; for the sheep they were 0.6, 0.4 and 0.1min-1 for the C. obsoletus complex, C. dewulfi and C. punctatus, respectively. Though midges were aspirated off livestock during each of the seven hours, they only began to appear in the black-light suction trap 5h later, from sunset onwards. After sunset, its efficacy improved markedly, but occurred when midge activity overall had begun to decline. Though it was quite accurate in ranking Culicoides species abundance, the black-light suction trap proved to be of limited value for determining hours of peak biting activity, levels of abundance, and host preference, in Culicoides. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.