Background: Most cases of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) start with a bite from one of the subspecies of Glossina fuscipes. Tsetse use a range of olfactory and visual stimuli to locate their hosts and this response can be exploited to lure tsetse to insecticide-treated targets thereby reducing transmission. To provide a rational basis for cost-effective designs of target, we undertook studies to identify the optimal target colour.
Methodology/principal findings: On the Chamaunga islands of Lake Victoria , Kenya, studies were made of the numbers of G. fuscipes fuscipes attracted to targets consisting of a panel (25 cm square) of various coloured fabrics flanked by a panel (also 25 cm square) of fine black netting. Both panels were covered with an electrocuting grid to catch tsetse as they contacted the target. The reflectances of the 37 different-coloured cloth panels utilised in the study were measured spectrophotometrically. Catch was positively correlated with percentage reflectance at the blue (460 nm) wavelength and negatively correlated with reflectance at UV (360 nm) and green (520 nm) wavelengths. The best target was subjectively blue, with percentage reflectances of 3%, 29%, and 20% at 360 nm, 460 nm and 520 nm respectively. The worst target was also, subjectively, blue, but with high reflectances at UV (35% reflectance at 360 nm) wavelengths as well as blue (36% reflectance at 460 nm); the best low UV-reflecting blue caught 3× more tsetse than the high UV-reflecting blue.
Conclusions/significance: Insecticide-treated targets to control G. f. fuscipes should be blue with low reflectance in both the UV and green bands of the spectrum. Targets that are subjectively blue will perform poorly if they also reflect UV strongly. The selection of fabrics for targets should be guided by spectral analysis of the cloth across both the spectrum visible to humans and the UV region.