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Bull Entomol Res. 2010 Jun;100(3):279-85. doi: 10.1017/S0007485309990277. Epub 2009 Aug 24.

Experiments on the ectoparasitic deer ked that often attacks humans; preferences for body parts, colour and temperature.

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  • 1University of Oulu, Department of Biology, PO Box 3000, FI-90014 Oulu, Finland.


The deer ked (Lipoptena cervi) can fail in its host search. Host search fails when an individual deer ked irreversibly accepts a host unsuitable for its reproduction (e.g. a human) and drops its wings. In northern Europe, the main host of the deer ked is the moose (Alces alces). The deer ked is increasingly causing serious problems for humans (for example, causing deer ked dermatitis) and is considered a threat for the recreational use of forests. The adult deer ked flies in early and mid-autumn to search for a host. Our aims were: (i) to study whether there are ways to avoid deer ked attacks by wearing particular clothing, and (ii) to evaluate deer ked host choice. Using human targets, we explored the cues the deer ked uses for host selection. We studied which part of the host body deer keds target and if body colour and temperature affect their choice. In our experiments, deer keds landed more on dark and red clothing than on white clothing. Moreover, deer keds mostly attacked the upper body parts and preferred the back side of the body over the front side. Finally, deer keds preferred the warmest areas of the host.

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