An investigation of sugar feeding by black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae)
Burgin, Steve G.
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Although much research has been conducted on blood-meal acquisition in adult female black flies (Diptera: Simuliidae), the same cannot be said for sugarmeals. Both sexes feed on sugar which provides energy for flight and it has been commonly held that nectar is the major carbohydrate source. This thesis addresses the question of whether a non-floral carbohydrate source, specifically homopteran honeydew, is ingested by male and female black flies. Black flies reared in the laboratory have been observed to readily ingest freshly excreted and older (dry) honeydew when presented with honeydew coated tamarack branches. Field work was conducted in Algonquin Park, Ontario in the spring and summer of 1993. Three separate studies were designed to test whether homopteran honeydew is an important carbohydrate source for black flies and whether flies from different habitats utilize different sugar sources. The sugars melezitose and / or stachyose are known to occur in a variety of homopteran honeydews and therefore were used as indicators of honeydew feeding by black flies. In the first study, black flies were collected with insect nets from a stand of Larix larcina heavily infested with honeydew - producing homopterans (Adelges lariciatus). Six black fly species were captured: Simulium venustum, S. rostra tum, S. vittatum, Stegopterna mutata, S. aureum and S. quebecense. Samples of honeydew and individual black flies were tested using thin layer chromatography (T. L. C.) with fructose, glucose, sucrose, turanose, melezitose, raffinose and stachyose as standards. All sugars except turanose and melezitose were found in the adelgid honeydew samples. Since the sugar melezitose was absent from ~ honeydew samples, stachyose was used to indicate that black flies were feeding from this particular honeydew source. Of the 201 black flies tested, 194 contained sugars which occurred in 16 combinations. Stachyose combinations excluding melezitose, present in 45.9 % of flies, were used to indicate that black flies had been feeding on the adelgid honeydew. In the second study, black flies were collected in the morning and evening on 8 collection dates, using a vehicle mounted insect net. The crops and midguts of 10 male and 10 female Simulium venustum were dissected on each sample date. In total the gut contents of 320 individual flies were analysed by T. L. C. The sugars identified from these flies were present in the following proportions: fructose (100.0%), glucose (100.0%), sucrose/turanose (50.4%), melezitose (30.3%), raffinose (18.8%) and stachyose (8.7%). These sugars occurred in fourteen different combinations. It is argued that the presence of melezitose and / or stachyose indicates that black flies had fed on homopteran honeydew. Significantly more female flies (40.0%) than male flies (27.5%) had fed on honeydew. In the third study, adult black flies were sampled by sweep netting vegetation in four habitats in the morning and evening on 8 collection dates. The habitats are as follows: (1) Davies Bog, (2) Abandoned Air Field (dominated by blueberries, Vaccinium spp.), (3) Deciduous Habitat and (4) Coniferous Habitat. Sugars in the crops and midguts of female flies were tested by T. L. C. and, for S. venustum, it was found that significantly fewer flies (18.8%) from the Air Field contained honeydew than from the other three sites (Davies Bog, 34.4%; Deciduous Habitat, 36.2%; Coniferous Habitat, 25.0%). Of the 1287 black flies tested individually by T. L. C. 441 (34.3%) contained melezitose and / or stachyose sugars indicating that this proportion of the population were feeding from Homopteran honeydew. It is therefore clear that floral (nectar) sugars are not the only source of carbohydrates available to black flies.