Sticky-trapping biting midges (Culicoides spp.) alighting on cattle and sheep: effects of trap colour and evidence for host preference
Investigations of host preferences in haematophagous insects, including Culicoides biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), are critical in order to assess transmission routes of vector-borne diseases. In this study, we collected and morphologically identified 164 blood-engorged Culicoides females caught in both light traps and permanent 12-m high suction traps during 2008-2010 in Sweden. Molecular analysis of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene in the biting midges was performed to verify species classification, discern phylogenetic relationships and uncover possible cryptic species. Bloodmeal analysis using universal vertebrate cytochrome b primers revealed a clear distinction in host selection between mammalophilic and ornithophilic Culicoides species. Host sequences found matches in horse (n = 59), sheep (n = 39), cattle (n = 26), Eurasian elk (n = 1) and 10 different bird species (n = 18). We identified 15 Culicoides species previously recorded in Scandinavia and four additional species haplotypes that were distinctly different from the described species. All ornithophilic individuals (n = 23) were caught exclusively in the suction traps, as were, interestingly, almost all mammalophilic species (n = 41), indicating that many biting midge species may be able to cover long distances after completing a bloodmeal. These results add new information on the composition of Culicoides species and their host preferences and their potential long-distance dispersal while blood-engorged.