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Journal: Journal of medical entomology


The blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say, is the primary vector to humans in the eastern United States of the Lyme disease spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, as well as causative agents of anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Its close relative in the far western United States, the western blacklegged tick Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls, is the primary vector to humans in that region of the Lyme disease and anaplasmosis agents. Since 1991, when standardized surveillance and reporting began, Lyme disease case counts have increased steadily in number and in geographical distribution in the eastern United States. Similar trends have been observed for anaplasmosis and babesiosis. To better understand the changing landscape of risk of human exposure to disease agents transmitted by I. scapularis and I. pacificus, and to document changes in their recorded distribution over the past two decades, we updated the distribution of these species from a map published in 1998. The presence of I. scapularis has now been documented from 1,420 (45.7%) of the 3,110 continental United States counties, as compared with 111 (3.6%) counties for I. pacificus. Combined, these vectors of B. burgdorferi and other disease agents now have been identified in a total of 1,531 (49.2%) counties spread across 43 states. This marks a 44.7% increase in the number of counties that have recorded the presence of these ticks since the previous map was presented in 1998, when 1,058 counties in 41 states reported the ticks to be present. Notably, the number of counties in which I. scapularis is considered established (six or more individuals or one or more life stages identified in a single year) has more than doubled since the previous national distribution map was published nearly two decades ago. The majority of county status changes occurred in the North-Central and Northeastern states, whereas the distribution in the South remained fairly stable. Two previously distinct foci for I. scapularis in the Northeast and North-Central states appear to be merging in the Ohio River Valley to form a single contiguous focus. Here we document a shifting landscape of risk for human exposure to medically important ticks and point to areas of re-emergence where enhanced vector surveillance and control may be warranted.

Concepts: Lyme disease, Tick, Acari, Ixodes scapularis, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Babesiosis, Ixodes


Behavioral bioassays were conducted to determine whether bed bug adults and nymphs prefer specific colored harborages. Two-choice and seven-choice behavioral color assays indicate that red (28.5%) and black (23.4%) harborages are optimal harborage choices for bed bugs. Yellow and green harborages appear to repel bed bugs. Harborage color preferences change according to gender, nutritional status, aggregation, and life stage. Female bed bugs prefer harborages with shorter wavelengths (lilac-14.5% and violet-11.5%) compared to males, whereas males prefer harborages with longer wavelengths (red-37.5% and black-32%) compared with females. The preference for orange and violet harborages is stronger when bed bugs are fed as opposed to when they are starved. Lone bed bugs (30%) prefer to be in black harborages while red harborages appear to be the optimum harborage color for bed bugs in more natural mixed aggregations (35.5%). Bed bug nymphs preferred different colored harborages at each stage of development, which is indicative of their developing eye structures and pigments. First instars showed no significant preference for any colored harborage soon after hatching. However, by the fifth instar, 27.5% of nymphs significantly preferred red and black harborages (which was a similar preference to adult bed bugs). The proportion of oviposited eggs was significantly greater under blue, red, and black harborages compared to other colored harborages tested. The use of visual cues such as specific colors offers great potential for improving bed bug monitoring tools by increasing trap captures.

Concepts: Color, Preference, Hemiptera, Bedbug, Traumatic insemination, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex


Clothing treated with the pyrethroid permethrin is available in the United States as consumer products to prevent tick bites. We used tick bioassays to quantify contact irritancy and toxicity of permethrin-treated clothing for three important tick vectors of human pathogens: the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis Say (Acari: Ixodidae); the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum (L.) (Acari: Ixodidae); and the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say) (Acari: Ixodidae). We first demonstrated that field-collected I. scapularis nymphs from Minnesota were as susceptible as laboratory-reared nymphs to a permethrin-treated textile. Field ticks examined in bioassays on the same day they were collected displayed contact irritancy by actively dislodging from a vertically oriented permethrin-treated textile, and a forced 1-min exposure resulted in all ticks being unable to move normally, thus posing no more than minimal risk of biting, 1 h after contact with the treated textile. Moreover, we documented lack of normal movement for laboratory-reared I. scapularis nymphs by 1 h after contact for 1 min with a wide range of permethrin-treated clothing, including garments made from cotton, synthetic materials, and blends. A comparison of the impact of a permethrin-treated textile across tick species and life stages revealed the strongest effect on I. scapularis nymphs (0% with normal movement 1 h after a 1-min exposure), followed by A. americanum nymphs (14.0%), I. scapularis females (38.0%), D. variabilis females (82.0%), and A. americanum females (98.0%). Loss of normal movement for all ticks 1 h after contact with the permethrin-treated textile required exposures of 1 min for I. scapularis nymphs, 2 min for A. americanum nymphs, and 5 min for female I. scapularis, D. variabilis, and A. americanum ticks. We conclude that use of permethrin-treated clothing shows promise to prevent bites by medically important ticks. Further research needs are discussed.


We report the discovery of large numbers of Haemaphysalis longicornis Neumann (Ixodida: Ixodidae) infesting a sheep in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, United States. All life stages were found on the sheep, which had no history of travel outside the country. H. longicornis is native to East Asia, and there are invasive populations in Australia, New Zealand and several Pacific islands, where this tick is a major livestock pest. It is currently unknown whether the New Jersey collections represent a limited or established population, but because this species could present a significant threat to human and animal health in the United States, vigilance is encouraged.

Concepts: United States, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, New York City, Native Americans in the United States, Morris County, New Jersey, New Jersey, Hunterdon County, New Jersey


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.


Aedes (Stegomyia) aegypti (L.) and Aedes (Stegomyia) albopictus (Skuse) transmit arboviruses that are increasing threats to human health in the Americas, particularly dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses. Epidemics of the associated arboviral diseases have been limited to South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean in the Western Hemisphere, with only minor localized outbreaks in the United States. Nevertheless, accurate and up-to-date information for the geographical ranges of Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus in the United States is urgently needed to guide surveillance and enhance control capacity for these mosquitoes. We compiled county records for presence of Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus in the United States from 1995-2016, presented here in map format. Records were derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ArboNET database, VectorMap, the published literature, and a survey of mosquito control agencies, university researchers, and state and local health departments. Between January 1995 and March 2016, 183 counties from 26 states and the District of Columbia reported occurrence of Ae. aegypti, and 1,241 counties from 40 states and the District of Columbia reported occurrence of Ae. albopictus During the same time period, Ae. aegypti was collected in 3 or more years from 94 counties from 14 states and the District of Columbia, and Ae. albopictus was collected during 3 or more years from 514 counties in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Our findings underscore the need for systematic surveillance of Ae. aegypti and Ae. albopictus in the United States and delineate areas with risk for the transmission of these introduced arboviruses.

Concepts: United States, Mosquito, Aedes aegypti, Aedes, Dengue fever, New York City, Americas, Caribbean


Social, ecological, and climatic factors interact creating a heterogeneous matrix that determines the spatiotemporal distribution of mosquitoes and human risks of exposure to the diseases they transmit. We explore linkages between the social and institutional processes behind residential abandonment, urban ecology, and the interactions of socio-ecological processes with abiotic drivers of mosquito production. Specifically, we test the relative roles of infrastructure degradation and vegetation for explaining the presence of Aedes albopictus Skuse 1894 to better predict spatial heterogeneity in mosquito exposure risk within urban environments. We further examine how precipitation interacts with these socially underpinned biophysical variables. We use a hierarchical statistical modeling approach to assess how environmental and climatic conditions over 3 years influence mosquito ecology across a socioeconomic gradient in Baltimore, MD. We show that decaying infrastructure and vegetation are important determinants of Ae. albopictus infestation. We demonstrate that both precipitation and vegetation influence mosquito production in ways that are mediated by the level of infrastructural decay on a given block. Mosquitoes were more common on blocks with greater abandonment, but when precipitation was low, mosquitoes were more likely to be found in higher-income neighborhoods with managed container habitat. Likewise, although increased vegetation was a negative predictor of mosquito infestation, more vegetation on blocks with high abandonment was associated with the largest mosquito populations. These findings indicate that fine spatial scale modeling of mosquito habitat within urban areas is needed to more accurately target vector control.

Concepts: Mosquito, Yellow fever, Aedes, Culicidae, Mosquito control, Fly, Asian tiger mosquito


In the early 1980s, Ixodes spp. ticks were implicated as the key North American vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi (Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt and Brenner) (Spirocheatales: Spirochaetaceae), the etiological agent of Lyme disease. Concurrently, other human-biting tick species were investigated as potential B. burgdorferi vectors. Rashes thought to be erythema migrans were observed in patients bitten by Amblyomma americanum (L.) (Acari: Ixodidae) ticks, and spirochetes were visualized in a small percentage of A. americanum using fluorescent antibody staining methods, sparking interest in this species as a candidate vector of B. burgdorferi. Using molecular methods, the spirochetes were subsequently described as Borrelia lonestari sp. nov. (Spirocheatales: Spirochaetaceae), a transovarially transmitted relapsing fever Borrelia of uncertain clinical significance. In total, 54 surveys from more than 35 research groups, involving more than 52,000 ticks, have revealed a low prevalence of B. lonestari, and scarce B. burgdorferi, in A. americanum. In Lyme disease-endemic areas, A. americanum commonly feeds on B. burgdorferi-infected hosts; the extremely low prevalence of B. burgdorferi in this tick results from a saliva barrier to acquiring infection from infected hosts. At least nine transmission experiments involving B. burgdorferi in A. americanum have failed to demonstrate vector competency. Advancements in molecular analysis strongly suggest that initial reports of B. burgdorferi in A. americanum across many states were misidentified B. lonestari, or DNA contamination, yet the early reports continue to be cited without regard to the later clarifying studies. In this article, the surveillance and vector competency studies of B. burgdorferi in A. americanum are reviewed, and we conclude that A. americanum is not a vector of B. burgdorferi.

Concepts: Bacteria, Lyme disease, Tick, Ixodidae, Borrelia burgdorferi, Borrelia, Spirochaetes, Amblyomma americanum


Pediculosis is a prevalent parasitic infestation of humans, which is increasing due, in part, to the selection of lice resistant to either the pyrethrins or pyrethroid insecticides by the knockdown resistance (kdr) mechanism. To determine the extent and magnitude of thekdr-type mutations responsible for this resistance, lice were collected from 138 collection sites in 48 U.S. states from 22 July 2013 to 11 May 2015 and analyzed by quantitative sequencing. Previously published data were used for comparisons of the changes in the frequency of thekdr-type mutations over time. Mean percent resistance allele frequency (mean % RAF) values across the three mutation loci were determined from each collection site. The overall mean % RAF (±SD) for all analyzed lice was 98.3 ± 10%. 132/138 sites (95.6%) had a mean % RAF of 100%, five sites (3.7%) had intermediate values, and only a single site had no mutations (0.0%). Forty-two states (88%) had a mean % RAF of 100%. The frequencies ofkdr-type mutations did not differ regardless of the human population size that the lice were collected from, indicating a uniformly high level of resistant alleles. The loss of efficacy of the Nix formulation (Prestige Brand, Tarrytown, NY) from 1998 to 2013 was correlated to the increase inkdr-type mutations. These data provide a plausible reason for the decrease in the effectiveness of permethrin in the Nix formulation, which is the parallel increase ofkdr-type mutations in lice over time.

Concepts: Evolution, United States, U.S. state, Pyrethroid, Head louse, Pediculosis, Body louse, Louse


The rapid increase of bed bug populations resistant to pyrethroids demands the development of novel control tactics. Products combining pyrethroids and neonicotinoids have become very popular for bed bug control in the United States, but there are concerns about evolution of resistance to these compounds. Laboratory assays were used to measure the toxicity of topical applications of four neonicotinoids to a susceptible population and three pyrethroid-resistant populations. Activity of esterases, glutathione S-transferases, and cytochrome P450s of all strains was also evaluated. High levels of resistance to four neonicotinoids, acetamiprid, imidacloprid, dinotefuran, and thiamethoxam, relative to the susceptible Fort Dix population, were detected in populations collected from human dwellings in Cincinnati and Michigan. Because activity of detoxifying enzymes was increased in these two populations, our results suggest that these enzymes have some involvement in neonicotinoid resistance, but other resistance mechanisms might be involved as well. Detection of high levels of resistance to neonicotinoids further limits the options for chemical control of bed bugs.

Concepts: Hemiptera, Insecticide, Deltamethrin, Bedbug, Heteroptera, Cimex lectularius, Cimex, Masked hunter