Although humans and arthropods have been living and evolving together for all of our history, we know very little about the arthropods we share our homes with apart from major pest groups. Here we surveyed, for the first time, the complete arthropod fauna of the indoor biome in 50 houses (located in and around Raleigh, North Carolina, USA). We discovered high diversity, with a conservative estimate range of 32-211 morphospecies, and 24-128 distinct arthropod families per house. The majority of this indoor diversity (73%) was made up of true flies (Diptera), spiders (Araneae), beetles (Coleoptera), and wasps and kin (Hymenoptera, especially ants: Formicidae). Much of the arthropod diversity within houses did not consist of synanthropic species, but instead included arthropods that were filtered from the surrounding landscape. As such, common pest species were found less frequently than benign species. Some of the most frequently found arthropods in houses, such as gall midges (Cecidomyiidae) and book lice (Liposcelididae), are unfamiliar to the general public despite their ubiquity. These findings present a new understanding of the diversity, prevalence, and distribution of the arthropods in our daily lives. Considering their impact as household pests, disease vectors, generators of allergens, and facilitators of the indoor microbiome, advancing our knowledge of the ecology and evolution of arthropods in homes has major economic and human health implications.
India’s unique and highly diverse biota combined with its unique geodynamical history has generated significant interest in the patterns and processes that have shaped the current distribution of India’s flora and fauna and their biogeographical relationships. Fifty four million year old Cambay amber from northwestern India provides the opportunity to address questions relating to endemism and biogeographic history by studying fossil insects. Within the present study seven extant and three fossil genera of biting midges are recorded from Cambay amber and five new species are described: Eohelea indica Stebner & Szadziewski n. sp., Gedanohelea gerdesorum Stebner & Szadziewski n. sp., Meunierohelea cambayana Stebner & Szadziewski n. sp., Meunierohelea borkenti Stebner & Szadziewski n. sp., and Meunierohelea orientalis Stebner & Szadziewski n. sp. Fossils of species in the genera Leptoconops Skuse, 1889, Forcipomyia Meigen, 1818, Brachypogon Kieffer, 1899, Stilobezzia Kieffer, 1911, Serromyia Meigen, 1818, and Mantohelea Szadziewski, 1988 are recorded without formal description. Furthermore, one fossil belonging to the genus Camptopterohelea Wirth & Hubert, 1960 is included in the present study. Our study reveals faunal links among Ceratopogonidae from Cambay amber and contemporaneous amber from Fushun, China, Eocene Baltic amber from Europe, as well as the modern Australasian and the Oriental regions. These findings imply that faunal exchange between Europe, Asia and India took place before the formation of Cambay amber in the early Eocene.
The life-like fidelity of organisms captured in amber is unique among all kinds of fossilization and represents an invaluable source for different fields of palaeontological and biological research. One of the most challenging aspects in amber research is the study of traits related to behaviour. Here, indirect evidence for pheromone-mediated mating behaviour is recorded from a biting midge (Ceratopogonidae) in 54 million-year-old Indian amber. Camptopterohelea odora n. sp. exhibits a complex, pocket shaped structure on the wings, which resembles the wing folds of certain moth flies (Diptera: Psychodidae) and scent organs that are only known from butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera) so far. Our studies suggests that pheromone releasing structures on the wings have evolved independently in biting midges and might be much more widespread in fossil as well as modern insects than known so far.
Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are biological vectors of bluetongue virus (BTV). Bluetongue is a viral disease that affects domestic and wild ruminants. Since its recent emergence in northern Europe, this disease has caused considerable economic losses to the sheep and cattle industry. The biotopes, and more particularly the chemical characteristics which are suitable for larval development of the main vector species, are still relatively unknown. This study shows that the larvae of biting midges belonging to the species Culicoides obsoletus and Culicoides scoticus are able to breed in different types of silage residue (maize, grass, sugar beet pulp and their combinations). The chemical composition of substrates strongly influences the presence of the immature stages of these biting midges. Higher lignin and insoluble fibre contents seem to favour their presence and could play the role of a physical support for semi-aquatic larvae. In contrast, higher concentrations of magnesium and calcium are negatively correlated with the presence of these two species. These data will help to locate and monitor the breeding sites of these species and could contribute to the control of these insects on farms.
Numerous species of gall midges (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) have been recorded from saltbush (Chenopodiaceae: Atriplex) around the world but only 11 of them belong to the large cecidomyiid genus Asphondylia. Of these, two species were described in the late 19th century from complex bud galls on Atriplex halimus in the Mediterranean Basin. In the present study Asphondylia punica is redescribed, A. conglomerata is synonymized with it, and Asphondylia scopuli is described from Atriplex lanfrancoi, an endemic plant to the Maltese Islands. Descriptions are accompanied by information about the galls and life history of the gall midges, and a review of the parasitic Hymenoptera associated with A. scopuli is provided. Four species of parasitoids were found and attributed to the families Eurytomidae, Pteromalidae, Eupelmidae and Eulophidae, of which the pteromalid Mesopolobus melitensis is described as new.
Laboratory colonies of phlebotomine sand flies are necessary for experimental study of their biology, behaviour and mutual relations with disease agents and for testing new methods of vector control. They are indispensable in genetic studies and controlled observations on the physiology and behaviour of sand flies, neglected subjects of high priority. Colonies are of particular value for screening insecticides. Colonized sand flies are used as live vector models in a diverse array of research projects, including xenodiagnosis, that are directed toward control of leishmaniasis and other sand fly-associated diseases. Historically, labour-intensive maintenance and low productivity have limited their usefulness for research, especially for species that do not adapt well to laboratory conditions. However, with growing interest in leishmaniasis research, rearing techniques have been developed and refined, and sand fly colonies have become more common, enabling many significant breakthroughs. Today, there are at least 90 colonies representing 21 distinct phlebotomine sand fly species in 35 laboratories in 18 countries worldwide. The materials and methods used by various sand fly workers differ, dictated by the availability of resources, cost or manpower constraints rather than choice. This paper is not intended as a comprehensive review but rather a discussion of methods and techniques most commonly used by researchers to initiate, establish and maintain sand fly colonies, with emphasis on the methods proven to be most effective for the species the authors have colonized. Topics discussed include collecting sand flies for colony stock, colony initiation, maintenance and mass-rearing procedures, and control of sand fly pathogens in colonies.
Haemoproteus parasites (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae) are widespread; some species cause severe diseases in avian hosts. Heavy Haemoproteus infections are often lethal for biting midges (Ceratopogonidae), which transmit avian haemoproteids, but there is no information regarding detrimental effect on other blood-sucking insects. We examined effects of Haemoproteus tartakovskyi (lineage hSISKIN1), Haemoproteus lanii (lineages hRB1and hRBS2) and Haemoproteus balmorali (lineage hCOLL3) on the survival of Ochlerotatus cantans, a widespread Eurasian mosquito. Wild-caught females were infected by allowing them to feed on naturally infected birds with light (0.01 %) and high (3.0-9.6 %) parasitaemia. Mosquitoes fed on uninfected birds were used as controls. Both experimental and control groups were maintained under the same laboratory conditions until 20 days post-exposure (dpe). Dead insects were counted daily and used for parasitological examination and PCR-based testing. No difference was discernible in the survival rate of control mosquitoes and those fed on meal with light parasitaemia. There was a highly significant difference in the survival rate between the control group and all groups fed on meals with high parasitaemia, with the greatest mortality reported 1-3 dpe. For 4 dpe, the percentage of survived control mosquitoes (88 %) was 2.2-, 3.6- and 4-fold greater than that of groups fed on meals with high parasitaemia of H. balmorali, H. tartakovskyi and H. lanii, respectively. Numerous ookinetes were observed in the gut area and adjacent tissues located in the head, thorax and abdomen of infected insects 0.5-1 dpe. The migrating parasites damage organs throughout the entire body of mosquitoes; that is the main reason of mortality. To the end of this study, 46 % of mosquitoes survived in control group, but the survival rates of experimental mosquitoes fed on meals with high parasitaemia were between 2.6- and 5.8-fold lower. This study indicates that widespread Haemoproteus infections are markedly virulent for bird-biting mosquitoes, which rapidly die after feeding on heavily infected blood meals.
Although avian trypanosomes are widespread parasites, the knowledge of their vectors is still incomplete. Despite biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) are considered as potential vectors of avian trypanosomes, their role in transmission has not been satisfactorily elucidated. Our aim was to clarify the potential of biting midges to sustain the development of avian trypanosomes by testing their susceptibility to different strains of avian trypanosomes experimentally. Moreover, we screened biting midges for natural infections in the wild.
Non-biting chironomid midges (Diptera: Chironomidae) may cause sensitization and allergic reactions in humans and have recently been identified as a potential health problem in Swedish municipal sewage treatment plants. To investigate, on a pilot scale, the allergenic potential of chironomids in sewage workers, all workers (n = 8) at a sewage treatment plant and local controls (n = 16) completed a symptom questionnaire, underwent measurement of the fraction of nitric oxide in exhaled air, spirometry, and provided serum samples for the determination of atopy status and the prevalence of specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against Chironomus thummi (Chi t) using a commercial fluorescence enzyme immunoassay (FEIA). Three sewage workers (38%) but no controls (0%) were FEIA positive for C. thummi-specific IgE antibodies (P < 0.05). No other health-related findings were significantly different between the groups. The study suggested that occupational exposure to Chironomids may cause sensitization with circulating IgE-antibodies in sewage workers.
Biting midges of the genus Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) transmit pathogens that cause important diseases. No effective technique has been found to properly control either Culicoides spp. abundance or their likelihood to transmit pathogens. Endosymbionts, particularly Wolbachia, represent powerful alternatives to control arthropods of health interest. In arthropods, Wolbachia can reduce vector fitness and vector’s pathogen transmission capacity, thus being a potential target for population reduction and replacement strategies.