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Culicoides spp. play an important role in the transmission of several vector-borne pathogens such as Bluetongue and Schmallenberg virus in Europe. To better understand the biology of local Culicoides species, a study divided into three parts was performed in northeast Germany to elucidate the feeding activity patterns (study A), preferential landing and feeding sites (study B) and host feeding preferences (study C) of Culicoides spp. using cattle and sheep as baits.
In study A, the activity of Culicoides spp. was monitored over a 72 h period by collecting insects at regular intervals from the interior of drop traps with cattle or sheep standing inside. In study B, Culicoides spp. were directly aspirated from the coat and fleece of cattle and sheep during the peak activity period of Culicoides. In study C, Culicoides spp. were collected using drop traps with either cattle or sheep standing inside and located 10 m apart.
In study A, 3,545 Culicoides midges belonging to 13 species were collected, peak activity was observed at sunset. In study B, 2,024 Culicoides midges were collected. A significantly higher number of midges was collected from the belly and flank of cattle in comparison to their head region. In study C, 3,710 Culicoides midges were collected; 3,077 (83%) originated from cattle and 633 (17%) from sheep. Nearly half (46.7%) of the midges collected from cattle were engorged, significantly more than the number of engorged midges collected from sheep (7.5%). Culicoides from the Obsoletus complex (C. obsoletus and C. scoticus) were the most common Culicoides species encountered, followed by C. punctatus. Other species identified were C. dewulfi, C. chiopterus, C. pulicaris, C. lupicaris, C. pallidicornis, C. subfascipennis, C. achrayi, C. stigma, C. griseidorsum and C. subfagineus, the last two species are reported for the first time in Germany. Engorged C. chiopterus were collected in relatively high numbers from sheep, suggesting that this species may have a preference for sheep.
An insight into the feeding behaviour of local Culicoides species under field conditions in northeast Germany was obtained, with implications for the implementation of control measures and midge-borne disease risk analysis.