An in vitro assay was developed to study the recognition mechanism for attachment of Leishmania flagella to sand fly midgut epithelium. Frozen sections of sand fly guts were incubated with flagella preparations, and probed with a flagella-specific monoclonal antibody. Tissue-specific adhesion of flagella to midgut epithelium was demonstrated by indirect immunofluorescence. None of the 13 sugars, screened to test for possible lectin-mediation, appeared to significantly inhibit the adhesion of flagella to gut sections. Similarly no inhibition was achieved by incubating flagella with pep 63 which inhibits the promastigote-macrophage recognition mechanism. Significant inhibition was attained by incubating flagella preparations with a monoclonal antibody which binds to a flagellar membrane-component. The possible relevance of the described mechanism for the biology of Leishmania in their sand fly hosts, is discussed.