An automated feeding apparatus was developed to maintain the human head louse (Pediculus capitis DeGeer) in vitro. With the use of valves and timers, banked human blood and saline from refrigerated reservoirs were pumped into and flushed out of the system every 7 d. During this rotational interval, bloodmeals were provided to head lice continuously and ad libitum through a stretched Nescofilm-silicone sandwich membrane. Compared with our previous in vitro human head louse-rearing apparatus, greater numbers of lice could be fed simultaneously with minimal human monitoring. Development of second to third instars and third instars to adults was significantly faster when lice were reared in vivo than on either of the in vitro rearing systems; there was no significant difference in the duration of the first instar. Although fecundity and hatch rates were significantly higher for female lice reared in vivo, similar trends have been observed for other membrane-fed arthropods. Body lice (Pediculus humanus L.) and bed bugs (Cimex lectularius [L.]) also completed most of their life cycle on this apparatus. Our automated mass-rearing system has broad applications for maintaining fluid-sucking ectoparasites and will facilitate various toxicological, behavioral, and disease-transmission investigations.
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