Spatial variation in host feeding patterns of culex tarsalis and the culex pipiens complex (Diptera: Culicidae) in California

T. C. Thiemann, D. A. Lemenager, S. Kluh, B. D. Carroll, H. D. Lothrop, William Reisen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


West Nile virus (family Flaviviridae, genus Flavivirus, WNV) is now endemic in California across a variety of ecological regions that support a wide diversity of potential avian and mammalian host species. Because different avian hosts have varying competence for WNV, determining the blood-feeding patterns of Culex (Diptera: Culicidae) vectors is a key component in understanding the maintenance and amplification of the virus as well as tangential transmission to humans and horses. We investigated the blood-feeding patterns of Culex tarsalis Coquillett and members of the Culex pipiens L. complex from southern to northern California. Nearly 100 different host species were identified from 1,487 bloodmeals, by using the mitochondrial gene cytochrome c oxidase I (COI). Cx. tarsalis fed on a higher diversity of hosts and more frequently on nonhuman mammals than did the Cx. pipiens complex. Several WNV-competent host species, including house finch and house sparrow, were common bloodmeal sources for both vector species across several biomes and could account for WNV maintenance and amplification in these areas. Highly competent American crow, western scrub-jay and yellow-billed magpie also were fed upon often when available and are likely important as amplifying hosts for WNV in some areas. Neither species fed frequently on humans (Cx. pipiens complex [0.4%], Cx. tarsalis [0.2%]), but with high abundance, both species could serve as both enzootic and bridge vectors for WNV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)903-916
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Medical Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2012


  • bloodmeal
  • Culex pipiens
  • Culex tarsalis
  • host diversity
  • host identicfiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • veterinary(all)
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Parasitology


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