Polarotaxis in non-biting midges: female chironomids are attracted to horizontally polarized light

Physiol Behav. 2011 Oct 24;104(5):1010-5. doi: 10.1016/j.physbeh.2011.06.022. Epub 2011 Jul 2.


Non-biting midges (Chironomidae, Diptera) are widely distributed aquatic insects. The short-living chironomid adults swarm in large numbers above water surfaces, and are sometimes considered a nuisance. They are vectors of certain bacteria, and have a key-role in benthic ecosystems. Optical cues, involving reflection-polarization from water, were found to be important in the habitat selection by three Mediterranean freshwater chironomid species. In this work we report on our multiple-choice experiments performed in the field with several other European freshwater chironomid species. We show that the investigated non-biting midges are positively polarotactic and like many other aquatic insects their females are attracted to horizontally polarized light. Our finding is important in the visual ecology of chironomids and useful in the design of traps for these insects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Chironomidae / physiology*
  • Female
  • Flight, Animal / physiology*
  • Light*
  • Orientation
  • Oviposition
  • Refractometry
  • Seasons
  • Surface Properties
  • Visual Perception / physiology*