Identity and diversity of blood meal hosts of biting midges (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae: Culicoides Latreille) in Denmark

Sandra Lassen, Søren Achim Nielsen, Michael Kristensen

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Host preference studies in haematophagous insects e.g. Culicoides biting midges are pivotal to assess transmission routes of vector-borne diseases and critical for the development of veterinary contingency plans. Species of Culicoides have been found in almost all parts of the world and known to live in a variety of habitats. Several parasites and viruses are transmitted by Culicoides biting midges including Bluetongue virus and Schmallenberg virus. The aim of the present study was to determine the identity and diversity of blood meals taken from vertebrate hosts in wild-caught Culicoides biting midges near livestock farms.

Biting midges were collected in weekly intervals for 20 weeks from May to October 2009. Twenty-four species of biting midges were identified from four study sites within a small area in Denmark. A total of 111,356 Culicoides biting midges were collected, of which 2,164 were blood-fed. Specimens of twenty species were identified with blood in their abdomens. Blood meal sources were successfully identified by DNA sequencing from 242 (76 %) out of 320 Culicoides specimens. Eight species of mammal and seven species of bird were identified as blood meal hosts. The most common host species was cow which constituted 77 % of the identified blood meals. The second most abundant host species was common wood pigeon which constituted 6 % of the identified blood meals.

Our results suggest that some Culicoides species are opportunistic and readily feed on a variety of mammals and birds, while others seems to be strictly mammalophilic or ornithophilic. Based on their abundance, dispersal potential and blood feeding behaviour, we conclude Culicoides biting midges to be potential vectors for many pathogens not yet introduced to Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
JournalParasites & Vectors
Issue number143
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • COI barcoding
  • Bluetongue virus
  • Schmallenberg virus
  • Blood meal host
  • Culicoides

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