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Host preferences of ornithophilic biting midges of the genus Culicoides in the Eastern Balkans.

Medical and veterinary entomology (2015-02-18)
A Bobeva, P Zehtindjiev, M Ilieva, D Dimitrov, A Mathis, S Bensch
ABSTRACT

Many biting midges of the genus Culicoides Latreille, 1809 (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are competent vectors of a diverse number of pathogens. The identification of their feeding behaviour and of vector-host associations is essential for understanding their transmission capacity. By applying two different nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assays, of which one targeted the avian cyt b gene and the other targeted the COI gene of a wide range of vertebrates, we identified the blood hosts of six biting midge species including Culicoides circumscriptus, Culicoides festivipennis, Culicoides punctatus, Culicoides pictipennis, Culicoides alazanicus and Culicoides cf. griseidorsum, the latter two of which are reported in Bulgaria for the first time. Bird DNA was found in 50.6% of 95 investigated bloodmeals, whereas mammalian DNA was identified in 13.7%. Two Culicoides species were found to feed on both birds and mammals. There was remarkable diversity in the range of avian hosts: 23 species from four orders were identified in the abdomens of four Culicoides species. The most common bird species identified was the magpie, Pica pica (n = 7), which was registered in all four ornithophilic biting midge species. Six bloodmeals from the great tit, Parus major, were recorded only in C. alazanicus. None of the studied species of Culicoides appeared to be restricted to a single avian host.

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