Daily activity patterns of movement and refuge use in Triatoma gerstaeckeri and Rhodnius prolixus (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), vectors of the Chagas disease parasite.
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Transmission risk for vector borne disease is greatest during periods of heightened vector activity. Triatomine bugs (Hemiptera: Reduviidae), which transmit Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas disease, are generally considered nocturnal, but their patterns of activity in controlled settings have rarely been studied. We quantified activity patterns across a 24-hour period in nymphs of two triatomine species: (1) Triatoma gerstaeckeri Stl, a North American triatomine which is closely associated with sylvatic and peridomestic hosts, and (2) Rhodnius prolixus Stl, a Central and South American triatomine that thrives in the domestic environment. T. gerstaeckeri showed activity throughout the night, with peaks around midnight, 3:00, and again around dawn. Refuge use was highest in the pre-dawn hours then again after the dawn activity peak. We hypothesize that the dawn activity peak may represent a period of host seeking for this sylvatic species that targets nocturnal hosts returning to their home at dawn. In contrast, R. prolixus displayed high activity near 23:00 and again around noon. This study provides a baseline understanding of diel activity for future behavioral experiments and identifies periods of time that may represent the greatest risk of host exposure to triatomines and T. cruzi.