Triatoma infestans (Klug), the most important vector of Chagas disease in southern South America, is a highly domiciliated species with well-known sylvatic foci only in the Bolivian Andean valleys and in the Bolivian Chaco, where melanic insects designated as “dark morphs” were found. After the tentative identification of two melanic bugs collected from parrot nests in a forest reserve in the Argentine Chaco as T. infestans, we conducted an intensive search there using mouse-baited sticky traps in summer 2006 and 2007. Four live T. infestans bugs were collected in trees without parrot nests in 288 trap-nights, whereas no bug was collected from inside trees with active parrot nests in 51 trap-nights. To increase bug captures, hollow tree trunks that recently had had Amazona aestiva (Berlepsch) and Aratinga acuticaudata (Vieillot) parrot nests were treated with insecticide fumigant canisters exhibiting strong knockdown power. Four (22%) of 18 trees were positive for T. infestans with a dark phenotype. A fragment of the mitochondrial gene COI of 8 of the 14 triatomine bugs collected was successfully sequenced and confirmed as T. infestans. Most of the bugs were captured from Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco (Schlechter) hollow tree trunks harboring parrot nests. All of the T. infestans collected from the nearest house located at 10 km from the sylvatic foci displayed normal chromatic characters. The repeated finding of T. infestans in sylvatic habitats, albeit at very low density, shows that this species is capable of maintaining viable sylvatic foci in the absence of human hosts and immigration from domestic populations. These are the first confirmed findings of sylvatic T. infestans colonies in Argentina and of dark morphs in the Argentine Chaco.
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Vol. 46 • No. 5