Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), known as Kala-azar in India, is a parasite transmitted by the bite of the sand fly vector Phlebotomus argentipes. Published information on the species indicates it is a poor flyer, mainly hopping and gliding. This study describes the vector as more arboreal than previously documented. Data collected indicate the ability of P. argentipes and Sergentomyia spp to attain vertical heights in Palmyra palm trees Borassus flabellifer up to 18.4 m above ground level. To determine if sand flies were either climbing the tree trunk to rest in the canopy or flying, sticky traps were set around the tree trunk and checked for captures overnight. CDC traps set in the palm tree canopy resulted in the capture of 5,067 sand flies, 3,990 of which were P. argentipes. Traps were set during daylight hours to determine if sand flies remained and rested in the canopy. A total of 128 sand flies were trapped over 29 trap days in the palm trees. With the CDC traps, 130 P. argentipes and no Sergentomyia spp were captured. The converse was true for the sticky traps set around tree trunks 3 m below the CDC traps. Of the 105 sand flies collected, only one was P. argentipes and 104 were Sergentomyia spp. As reported elsewhere, this indicates Sergentomyia spp tend to climb and hop, wheareas P. argentipes are capable of longer and more sustained flight. Data presented herein suggest that P. argentipes is more exophylic and exophagic than previously reported. These findings have implications for sand fly control.
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Vol. 37 • No. 1