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GL Hamer, JR Bejcek, EA Valdez, R Curtis-Robles and SA Hamer
We conducted the first pilot radio telemetry study of hematophagous arthropods by placing transmitters on wild-caught triatomine insects (‘kissing bugs’), vectors of the Chagas disease parasite. In Texas-a recognized hotspot for triatomine diversity and locally-acquired human and animal Chagas disease-we tagged five female and four male Triatoma gerstaeckeri (Stål) (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), as well as one female and one male Triatoma sanguisuga (Leconte) (Hemiptera: Reduviidae) in three counties from 2015 to 2017. In comparative trials, placement of the transmitter on the dorsal side of the abdomen underneath the hemelytra wings, with the transmitter antenna shortened to 3 cm, yielded the best results. We tracked the movements of the 11 tagged bugs over an average of 4.8 d (range of 1 to 12 d) and detected 18 movement events with an average distance of 3.8 m (range of 1 to 20 m). This pilot study demonstrates the potential utility for using telemetry as a tool for studying fine-scale non-flight movement of triatomines and the discovery of cryptic resting habitats. Future studies using this or similar technologies to study movement and behavior of triatomines could test for site-fidelity of resting habitats and provide novel insight into aspects of vector biology that could be targeted in disease risk reduction efforts.
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