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Factors affecting Culicoides species composition and abundance in avian nests

  • J. MARTÍNEZ-de la PUENTE (a1), S. MERINO (a1), G. TOMÁS (a2), J. MORENO (a1), J. MORALES (a3), E. LOBATO (a1), S. TALAVERA (a4) and V. SARTO i MONTEYS (a5)...


Mechanisms affecting patterns of vector distribution among host individuals may influence the population and evolutionary dynamics of vectors, hosts and the parasites transmitted. We studied the role of different factors affecting the species composition and abundance of Culicoides found in nests of the blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus). We identified 1531 females and 2 males of 7 different Culicoides species in nests, with C. simulator being the most abundant species, followed by C. kibunensis, C. festivipennis, C. segnis, C. truncorum, C. pictipennis and C. circumscriptus. We conducted a medication×fumigation experiment randomly assigning bird's nests to different treatments, thereby generating groups of medicated and control pairs breeding in fumigated and control nests. Medicated pairs were injected with the anti-malarial drug Primaquine diluted in saline solution while control pairs were injected with saline solution. The fumigation treatment was carried out using insecticide solution or water for fumigated and control nests respectively. Brood size was the main factor associated with the abundance of biting midges probably because more nestlings may produce higher quantities of vector attractants. In addition, birds medicated against haemoparasites breeding in non-fumigated nests supported a higher abundance of C. festivipennis than the rest of the groups. Also, we found that the fumigation treatment reduced the abundance of engorged Culicoides in both medicated and control nests, thus indicating a reduction of feeding success produced by the insecticide. These results represent the first evidence for the role of different factors in affecting the Culicoides infracommunity in wild avian nests.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Departamento de Ecología Evolutiva, Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (CSIC), J. Gutiérrez Abascal 2, E-28006, Madrid, Spain. Tel: +34 91411 1328. Fax: +34 91564 5078. E-mail:


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