Morphological adaptations of the mouthparts to the ectoparasitic lifestyle of the biting midge Forcipomyia paludis (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), specialized in Odonata

Damselflies and dragonflies are well-known hosts of the West Palaearctic biting midge Forcipomyia paludis. Females of this ectoparasitic dipteran mainly cling to the host’s wings, sucking hemolymph from the wing veins. The midges are firmly attached to the wing surface with specialized tarsi, thus not being flung away during the host’s flight maneuvers. As for another ceratopogonid—F. odonatophila from New Guinea—had been suggested, we assumed that in F. paludis, the attachment would be reinforced by the mouthparts during the suction action. In the present study, we used behavioral field observations, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and high-resolution micro-computed tomography (µCT), to study the mouthparts of F. paludis. We focused on the mouthpart configuration post sucking and thus on the contact with the host's wing as well as on the piercing process into the wing veins. We foster our understanding of F. paludis being a parasite of Odonata by showing proof of the piercing and therefore the sucking of hemolymph from the wings. Additionally, the mouthparts clearly show contamination with odonate wing wax after the sucking procedure. Furthermore, we discuss probable additional functions of the piercing process for the firm attachment to the flying host of F. paludis.


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