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Vector–Host Interactions in Avian Nests: Do Mosquitoes Prefer Nestlings over Adults?

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  • Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, and Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama; Department of Global Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida; Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

The hypothesis that nestlings are a significant driver of arbovirus transmission and amplification is based upon findings that suggest nestlings are highly susceptible to being fed upon by vector mosquitoes and to viral infection and replication. Several previous studies have suggested that nestlings are preferentially fed upon relative to adults in the nest, and other studies have reported a preference for adults over nestlings. We directly tested the feeding preference of nestling and adult birds in a natural setting, introducing mosquitoes into nesting boxes containing eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis), collecting blood-fed mosquitoes, and matching the source of mosquito blood meals to individual birds using microsatellite markers. Neither nestlings nor adults were fed upon to an extent significantly greater than would be predicted based upon their relative abundance in the nests, although feeding upon mothers decreased as the age of the nestlings increased.

Author Notes

*Address correspondence to Thomas R. Unnasch, Global Health Infectious Disease Research Program, Department of Global Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, 3720 Spectrum Boulevard, Suite 304 Tampa, FL 33612. E-mail: tunnasch@health.usf.edu

Financial support: This study was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, project no. R01AI049724 to Thomas R. Unnasch and Geoffrey E. Hill.

Authors' addresses: Nathan Burkett-Cadena, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Auburn University, Auburn, AL. Russell A. Ligon, Mark Liu, and Geoffrey E. Hill, Department of Biological Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL. Hassan K. Hassan and Thomas R. Unnasch, Global Infectious Disease Research Program, Department of Global Health, College of Public Health, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, E-mail: tunnasch@health.usf.edu. Micky D. Eubanks, Department of Entomology, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.

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