State-dependency of host-seeking in Rhodnius prolixus: the post-ecdysis time

J Insect Physiol. 2009 Jun;55(6):574-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2009.02.004.


The source of blood of most haematophagous insects plays at the same time the double role of host and potential predator. Feeding behaviour should be triggered only when necessary and should be completed as quickly as possible. From an epidemiological point of view, this modulation has an impact on the feeding frequency of disease vectors and, as a consequence, on the transmission of parasites. At present, not many data are available on the influence of the physiological state on the motivation to feed, and mostly limited to a few mosquito species. We analyzed the host-seeking behaviour of Rhodnius prolixus as a function of the time elapsed since the ecdysis, by testing the response of larvae to a blood source, and long- (CO2) and short-range (heat) orientation cues associated to their vertebrate hosts. Our experiments demonstrated that during the first days following the ecdysis insects do not respond to any stimuli. The ability to follow chemical and physical cues increases either gradually (heat) or step-wise (CO2) with post-ecdysis time. A few insects started to feed on day 2, but only at day 7 following the ecdysis 50% of them took a bloodmeal, to reach the highest motivation to feed on day 10. The reasons for the "maturation period" in feeding behaviour of R. prolixus are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Hot Temperature
  • Molting*
  • Rhodnius / growth & development
  • Rhodnius / physiology*
  • Sheep / physiology*