Biting midges of the genus Culicoides are important in the transmission of viral diseases affecting wild and domestic ungulates, including bluetongue (BLU) and epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). The primary known vector for these viruses is C. sonorensis Wirth & Jones, however, it has been speculated that other species of Culicoides may also be involved. One potential candidate is C. mohave, a poorly studied species found in inland desert areas of the southwestern United States. In 2000 and 2001, we collected C. mohave and C. sonorensis at six sites in a previously unsurveyed area in the Sonoran Desert of southwestern Arizona and used PCR to detect nucleic acids associated with BLU and EHD viruses. C. mohave was abundant at two low-elevation sites on the study area, but uncommon or absent elsewhere. C. sonorensis commonly occurred along with C. mohave at one site, but was much less abundant. All C. mohave pools were negative for BLU viral RNA, however, 35% yielded positive results for EHD. All C. sonorensis were negative for both BLU and EHD. Our results suggest that C. mohave is a potential vector of EHD virus in this area, however additional studies are needed to determine its ability to transmit EHD.
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Vol. 40 • No. 4