The dying of the light: crepuscular activity in Culicoides and impact on light trap efficacy at temperate latitudes

R. Meiswinkel, A.R.W. Elbers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


The light trap is the tool of choice for conducting large-scale Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) vector surveillance programmes. Its efficacy is in doubt, however. To assess this, hourly changes in Culicoides activity over the 24-h diel were determined comparatively by way of light trapping and aerial sweeping, and correlated against light intensity. In the Netherlands, sweeping around cattle at pasture revealed that, in early summer, Culicoides are active throughout the diel, and that their abundance peaks during the crepuscular period and falls to a low during the brightest hours of the day. By contrast, the light trap was able to accumulate Culicoides only at night (i.e. after illuminance levels had dropped to 0 lux and midge activity had begun to decline). Although Culicoides chiopterus and species of the Culicoides obsoletus complex were similarly abundant around livestock, they differed critically in their hours of peak activity, being largely diurnal and nocturnal, respectively. This polarity helps to explain why, routinely, the C. obsoletus complex dominates light trap collections and C. chiopterus does not. Inability to accumulate Culicoides at light intensity levels above 0 lux means that, at ever-higher latitudes, particularly beyond 45° N, the progressive northward lengthening of the twilight period will have an increasingly adverse impact upon the efficacy of the light trap as a vector surveillance tool.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
JournalMedical and Veterinary Entomology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Biting midges
  • Black light
  • Bluetongue virus
  • Crepuscular
  • Lux
  • Veterinary disease vector


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