Bionomics of Culicoides molestus (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae): a pest biting midge in Gold Coast canal estates
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Culicoides molestus (Skuse) is the major species of biting midge that plagues human comfort in the estuarine Gold Coast region of southeast Queensland. Local authorities have initiated a search for an effective, non-chemical means of control, that would minimize human-midge interaction. The effectiveness of a program to control an organism, such as a biting midge, is dependent upon knowledge of the biology of the particular organism of interest. This project revolved examines the lifecycle of C. molestus in detail. It addresses questions regarding the location, seasonal distribution, and dispersal of its juvenile stages in the sand of infested beaches, and their response to chemical treatment, the monthly and annual cycles of the adult midge, and the possibilities of achieving laboratory oviposition, as a first step to laboratory colonisation. The distribution of eggs, larvae and pupae of C. molestus was found to be mostly concentrated around, but below, mean tide level. They also occurred well below the mean tide level. Eggs and larvae have been recovered from as deep as 10 cm in the sand. A seasonal study of the juveniles of this species indicated that they were more strongly influenced by tides than seasons. After a routine pest-control larviciding treatment, a beach recolonisation study revealed that beaches become suitable for oviposition approximately two months after treatment. Large larvae invaded the sprayed areas within days of treatment, which suggests the existence of a refuge outside of the reach of the insecticide. Larvae found in clean (egg- and larva-free), isolated sand containers, placed on the study beach, indicated that larvae could swim in or on the water as a way of moving around the beach. Extended bite-rate studies highlighted the existence of four peaks in adult midge biting activity during the course of a year, around the mid seasons. The strongest peaks of activity were found to be in autumn and spring, but the data suggest that the species undergoes four generations in a year. Through a series of trial-and-error experiments, oviposition under laboratory conditions was achieved. Although the time from blood-feeding to egg maturation is not yet well determined, it occurs within an eight day mean survival period. Blood quality appears critical for adult blood-fed midge survival. Midges fed on the blood of a volunteer who was frequently exposed to midge bites do not live long enough to mature its eggs. The partial ovarial development of one unfed adult female, reared in the laboratory, indicates that C. molestus is facultatively anautogenous.
Master of Philosophy (MPhil)
School of Environmental and Applied Science
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