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Parasit Vectors. 2019 Aug 22;12(1):411. doi: 10.1186/s13071-019-3671-9.

Laboratory evaluation of stable isotope labeling of Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) for adult dispersal studies.

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Entomology Branch, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, MD, 20910, USA.
Department of Entomology, University of California-Riverside, Riverside, CA, 92521, USA.
Department of Entomology, University of California-Riverside, Riverside, CA, 92521, USA.
Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Pathology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, 80523, USA.
Stable Isotope Geosciences Facility, Department of Geography, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 77843, USA.
Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, 77843, USA.



Stable isotope labeling is a promising method for use in insect mark-capture and dispersal studies. Culicoides biting midges, which transmit several important animal pathogens, including bluetongue virus (BTV) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus (EHDV), are small flies that develop in various semi-aquatic habitats. Previous Culicoides dispersal studies have suffered from the limitations of other labeling techniques, and an inability to definitively connect collected adult midges to specific immature development sites.


Adult C. sonorensis were successfully labeled with 13C and 15N stable isotopes as larvae developing in a semi-aquatic mud substrate in the laboratory. High and low-dose isotope treatments for both elements significantly enriched midges above the background isotope levels of unenriched controls. Enrichment had no effect on C. sonorensis survival, though a slight (~ 5 day) delay in emergence was observed, and there was no significant effect of pool size on 13C or 15N enrichment levels.


Stable isotope labeling is life-long, and does not interfere with natural insect behaviors. Stable isotope enrichment using 13C or 15N shows promise for Culicoides dispersal studies in the field. This method can be used to identify adult dispersal from larval source habitat where a midge developed. It may be possible to detect a single enriched midge in a pool of unenriched individuals, though further testing is needed to confirm the sensitivity of this method.


Bluetongue virus; Culicoides sonorensis; Dispersal; Epizootic hemorrhagic disease virus; Mark-recapture; Stable isotopes

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