Researchers in Spain have examined bird nests in order to understand how flying insects and parasites detect gases as a way to locate their hosts. The study found that nests that had higher concentrations of carbon dioxide attracted more biting midges, a type of insect that carries a common blood parasite that infects local birds. The findings have implications regarding how diseases spread, which will be affected as carbon levels rise due to climate change.
Flying insects and parasites are often vectors for disease, but a mosquito needs to first find someone before they can bite them. In a recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, researchers examined bird nests in order to understand how insects and parasites detect gases such as carbon dioxide and methane as a way to locate their hosts.
The researchers focused on blue tit bird nest boxes located in a deciduous forest in central Spain. They found that the nests contained more biting midges when concentrations of carbon dioxide were higher inside the nest compared to the forest air. “This is important because biting midges are the main vector of Haemoproteus, the most abundant blood parasite infecting birds in our study area,” says Dr. Santiago Merino of the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid, one of the researchers on the study. MORE
Header image: Santiago Merino/National Museum of Natural Sciences Madrid.