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Journal: Journal of insect science (Online)


Reducing the number of host-vector interactions is an effective way to reduce the spread of vector-borne diseases. Repellents are widely used to protect humans from a variety of protozoans, viruses, and nematodes. DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide), a safe and effective repellent, was developed during World War II. Fear of possible side effects of DEET has created a large market for “natural” DEET-free repellents with a variety of active ingredients. We present a comparative study on the efficacy of eight commercially available products, two fragrances, and a vitamin B patch. The products were tested using a human hand as attractant in a Y-tube olfactometer setup with Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus) and Aedes albopictus (Skuse), both major human disease vectors. We found that Ae. albopictus were generally less attracted to the test subject’s hand compared with Ae, aegypti. Repellents with DEET as active ingredient had a prominent repellency effect over longer times and on both species. Repellents containing p-menthane-3,8-diol produced comparable results but for shorter time periods. Some of the DEET-free products containing citronella or geraniol did not have any significant repellency effect. Interestingly, the perfume we tested had a modest repellency effect early after application, and the vitamin B patch had no effect on either species. This study shows that the different active ingredients in commercially available mosquito repellent products are not equivalent in terms of duration and strength of repellency. Our results suggest that products containing DEET or p-menthane-3,8-diol have long-lasting repellent effects and therefore provide good protection from mosquito-borne diseases.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Mosquito, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Dengue fever, Insect repellent, Asian tiger mosquito, DEET


The folded intersegmental membrane is a structure that interconnects two adjacent abdominal segments; this structure is distributed in the segments of the honey bee abdomen. The morphology of the folded intersegmental membrane has already been documented. However, the ultrastructure of the intersegmental membrane and its assistive role in the telescopic movements of the honey bee abdomen are poorly understood. To explore the morphology and ultrastructure of the folded intersegmental membrane in the honey bee abdomen, frozen sections were analyzed under a scanning electron microscope. The intersegmental membrane between two adjacent terga has a Z-S configuration that greatly influences the daily physical activities of the honey bee abdomen. The dorsal intersegmental membrane is 2 times thicker than the ventral one, leading to asymmetric abdominal motion. Honey bee abdominal movements were recorded using a high-speed camera and through phase-contrast computed tomography. These movements conformed to the structural features of the folded intersegmental membrane.

Concepts: Electron, Insect, Arthropod, Honey bee, Abdomen, Scanning electron microscope, Bee, Apidae


Conservation programs increasingly involve the reintroduction of animals which otherwise would not recolonize restored habitats. We assessed the long-term success of a project in which the Blue-winged grasshopper, Oedipoda caerulescens (L., 1758), was reintroduced to a nature reserve in Northwestern Switzerland, an alluvial gravel area where the species went extinct in the 1960s. In summer 1995, we released 110 individuals (50 females and 60 males) and 204 individuals (101 females and 103 males) into two restored gravel patches with sparse vegetation. We used a transect count technique to assess the population size of O. caerulescens in the years 1995-2004 and 2015-2016 and recorded the area occupied by the species. At both release sites, the populations persisted and increased significantly in size. Individuals that followed a newly created corridor established four new subpopulations. Seven years after reintroduction, O. caerulescens had reached a high abundance around the release sites and in the four colonized patches, indicating a successful project. At the same time, the dispersal corridor became increasingly overgrown by dense vegetation. Surveys 20 and 21 yr after introduction showed that the abundance of the Blue-winged grasshopper had strongly declined in the established subpopulations and moderately in the original release sites, owing to natural succession of the habitat and lack of disturbances, which reduced the area suitable for the species by 59%. Our study shows that reintroductions are unlikely to succeed without integration of long-term habitat management (in the present case maintenance of open ground).

Concepts: Population, Population ecology, Grasshopper, Locust, Ecological succession, Orthoptera, Acrididae, Acridoidea


Females of several species of dipteran parasitoids use long-range hearing to locate hosts for their offspring by eavesdropping on the acoustic mating calls of other insects. Males of these acoustic eavesdropping parasitoids also have physiologically functional ears, but so far, no adaptive function for male hearing has been discovered. I investigated the function of male hearing for the sarcophagid fly Emblemasoma erro Aldrich, an acoustic parasitoid of cicadas, by testing the hypothesis that both male and female E. erro use hearing to locate potential mates. I found that both male and nongravid female E. erro perform phonotaxis to the sounds of calling cicadas, that male flies engage in short-range, mate-finding behavior once they arrive at a sound source, and that encounters between females and males at a sound source can lead to copulation. Thus, cicada calling songs appear to serve as a mate-finding cue for both sexes of E. erro Emblemasoma erro’s mate-finding behavior is compared to that of other sarcophagid flies, other acoustic parasitoids, and nonacoustic eavesdropping parasitoids.

Concepts: Male, Reproduction, Female, Insect, Gender, Sex, Gamete, Fly


Captive rearing of insect pests is necessary to understand their biology and to develop control methods. The avian nest fly, Philornis downsi Dodge and Aitken, is a blood-sucking parasite during its larval stage and a serious threat to endemic birds in the Galapagos Islands where it is considered invasive. In order to procure large numbers of flies for biological studies, rearing media and diets were trialed for rearing the larval stage of P. downsi under controlled conditions in the absence of its avian host. P. downsi eggs were obtained from field-caught female flies, and once eggs hatched they were reared on chicken blood for the first 3 d. Following this, three diets were tested on second- and third-instar larvae: 1) chicken blood only; 2) chicken blood, hydrolyzed protein and dried milk powder; and 3) chicken blood, hydrolyzed protein and brewer’s yeast. Out of 385 P. downsi larvae tested, we were able to rear 50 larvae to the adult stage. The highest level of mortality was found in the first-instar larvae. Survivorship of second- and third-instar larvae was similar irrespective of diet and diet did not significantly influence larval or pupal development times; though larvae fed the diet with brewer’s yeast developed marginally faster. Pupal weights were similar to those of larvae that had developed on bird hosts in the field. To our knowledge, this is the first effective protocol for rearing a hematophagous parasitic avian fly from egg to adult in the absence of a living host.

Concepts: Protein, Insect, Larva, Mosquito, Milk, Bird, Fly, Powdered milk


Sterile insect technique (SIT) is a promising, environmentally friendly alternative to the use of pesticides for insect pest control. However, implementing SIT with Aedes aegypti (Linnaeus) mosquitoes presents unique challenges. For example, during transport from the rearing facility to the release site and during the actual release in the field, damage to male mosquitoes should be minimized to preserve their reproductive competitiveness. The short flight range of male Ae. aegypti requires elaborate release strategies such as release via Unmanned Aircraft Systems, more commonly referred to as drones. Two key parameters during transport and release are storage temperature and compaction rate. We performed a set of laboratory experiments to identify the optimal temperatures and compaction rates for storage and transport of male Ae. aegypti. We then conducted shipping experiments to test our laboratory-derived results in a ‘real-life’ setting. The laboratory results indicate that male Ae. aegypti can survive at a broad range of storage temperatures ranging from 7 to 28°C, but storage time should not exceed 24 h. Male survival was high at all compaction rates we tested with a low at 40 males/cm3. Interestingly, results from our ‘real-life’ shipping experiment showed that high compaction rates were beneficial to survival. This study advances key understudied aspects of the practicalities of moving lab-reared insects into the field and lies the foundation for further studies on the effect of transport conditions on male reproductive fitness.


Here, we describe a nano-scale surface structure on the rat-tailed maggot, the aquatic larva of the Drone flyEristalis tenax(L.). Larvae of this syrphid hover fly live in stagnant, anaerobic water-courses that are rich in organic matter. The larvae burrow into fetid slurry and feed on microorganisms which they filter out from the organic material. This environment is rich in bacteria, fungi and algae with the capacity to form biofilms that might develop on the larval surface and harm them. Using transmission and scanning electron microscopy we have identified an array of slender (typically < 100 nm in diameter) nanopillars that cover the surface of the larvae. The high density and dimensions of these spine-like projections appear to make it difficult for bacteria to colonize the surface of the animal. This may interfere with the formation of biofilms and potentially act as a defence against bacterial infection.

Concepts: Bacteria, Insect, Larva, Mosquito, Fly, Hoverfly, Hoverflies, Rat-tailed maggot


Since the mid-1990s, Bombus occidentalis (Green) has declined from being one of the most common to one of the rarest bumble bee species in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Although its conservation status is unresolved, a petition to list this species as endangered or threatened was recently submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. To shed light on the conservation situation and inform the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision, we report on the detection and abundance of B. occidentalis following bumble bee collection between 2012 and 2014 across the Pacific Northwest. Collection occurred from the San Juan Islands and Olympic peninsula east to northern Idaho and northeastern Oregon, excluding the arid region in central Washington. B. occidentalis was observed at 23 collection sites out of a total of 234. With the exception of three sites on the Olympic peninsula, all of these were in the southeastern portion of the collection range.

Concepts: United States, Honey bee, Pacific Ocean, Bee, Bumblebee, Pacific Northwest, Oregon, Washington


We report that in a leaf insect, Phyllium westwoodii Wood-Mason (Phasmatodea: Phylliidae), two differing apertures can be used for oviposition, the color of eggs being affected by which aperture is used. Eggs which are forcibly propelled from the internal space within the valvulae of the abdomen are brown, whereas white eggs emerge slowly from the opening between the eighth sternite and the valvulae, and are deposited close to the ventral surface of the female. This unusual oviposition system does not appear to have been previously reported in phasmatids or in other insects.

Concepts: Insect, Thorax, Phasmatodea, Insects, Phylliidae


Previous work showed the non-nutritive polyol sweetener Erythritol was toxic when ingested by Drosophila melanogaster (Meigen, 1930). This study assessed whether insect toxicity is a general property of polyols. Among tested compounds, toxicity was highest for erythritol. Adult fruit flies (D. melanogaster) fed erythritol had reduced longevity relative to controls. Other polyols did not reduce longevity; the only exception was a weaker but significant reduction of female (but not male) longevity when flies were fed D-mannitol. We conclude at least some non-nutritive polyols are not toxic to adult D. melanogaster when ingested for 17 days. The longer time course (relative to erythritol) and female specificity of D-mannitol mortality suggests different mechanisms for D-mannitol and erythritol toxicity to D. melanogaster.

Concepts: Insect, Drosophila melanogaster, Drosophila, Flies, Drosophilidae, Sweeteners, Xylitol, Sugar alcohol