Overview of our research program

Our lab focuses on studying the thermal biology, eco-physiology and neuro-ethology of disease vector insects and ticks. We rely on a collaborative, multidisciplinary and integrative approach, combining field work, behavioral analyses, molecular biology, chemical ecology and electrophysiology. The results from these projects help to get a better understanding of the disease vectors’ biology, and will lay the groundwork for the development of new tools to control their populations.

On-going work

Sugar feeding play a major role in the mosquito life. It is the sole source of source for males and an important one for females which require blood to produce progeny but also need sugar to survive. Mosquito phytophagy has been historically neglected in Science. Because pathogens are transmitted to humans during blood-feeding, most of the research effort has been towards deciphering vector-host-pathogen interactions.  

We focus on diverse aspects of sugar feeding in mosquitoes, from studying the ornemental and wild flowers that attract mosquitoes to understanding their role as pollinators, to using this new knowledge for developing new baits (e.g., ATSB) and traps for mosquito control. 

 

Students involved: Forde Upshur, Morgen VanderGiessen, Lauren Fryzlewicz, Ash Vanwinkle, Cameron Hart and Elizabeth Bose.

Funding: The Eppley Foundation for Research, The Global Change Center, The Fralin Life Sciences Insitute.  

Recent papers and news: 

  • Lahondère C., C. Vinauger, R.P. Okubo, G. Wolff, O.S. Akbari, J.A. Riffell (2020). The olfactory basis of orchid pollination by mosquitoes. PNAS.

  • Upshur I.F.**, Bose E.A*, Hart C.* and C. Lahondère. (2019). Temperature and sugar feeding effects on the activity of a laboratory strain of Aedes aegyptiInsects, 10(10): 347.

,

Physical parameters such as temperature, precipitation, and time of the day and year directly affect the biology of mosquitoes and it is the complex interplay of these factors that determines the overall effect of climate on local mosquito populations. Considering ongoing climate change, frequent dramatic weather events, and the ability of mosquito species to invade new areas, it is essential to define the link between climatic changes and the response of mosquito populations.

 

We work on mosquito populations in Virginia as well as mechanisms underlying thermal adaptation in invasive mosquito species. We particularly focus on Aedes albopictus and Ae. (Oc.) japonicus

Students involved: Morgen VanderGiessen, Lauren Fryzlewicz and Forde Upshur, Sarah Tartabini

Current collaborators:  Dr. Luis Escobar (VT Wildlife and Fisheries), Dr. Karen Kovaka (VT Philosophy), Dr. Clément Vinauger (VT Biochemistry), Dr. David Schmale (VT SPES), Dr. Sally Paulson (VT Entomology), Dr. James Weger (VT Vet Med), Dr. Jonathan Auguste (VT Entomology), Dr. Don Mullins (VT Entomology),  Dr. Mariangela Bonizzoni (Univeristy of Pavia, Italy)

Funding: The Global Change Center, MicroFEWHS  

Recent papers and news

  • Reinhold J.M.**, Lazzari C.R. and Lahondère C. (2018) Effects of the Environmental Temperature on Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus Mosquitoes: A Review. Insects, 9(4), 158; doi: 10.3390/insects9040158. 

Mosquitoes feed on a wide range of hosts, including warm blooded animals such as mammals and birds and cold-blooded animals such as frogs, snakes and annelids. To locate a warm-blooded host to feed on, mosquitoes use visual, thermal, olfactory and mechanical cues. If our knowledge on endotherms-mosquito interactions is quite extensive, comparatively less is known regarding cold-blooded hosts-mosquito interactions. 

Focusing on Culex territans mosquitoes, we aim at answering the following questions: What cues are these mosquitoes using to detect their cold-blooded hosts? How did they evolve feeding on cold-blooded hosts? How do they feed on cold and viscous blood? What pathogens are they vectoring? We conduct this work at Mountain Lake Biological Station (UVA, VA).

 

Students involved: Joanna Reinhold, Ryan Shaw, Zach Baker.

Current collaborators:  Dr. David McLeod (UVA, VA)

Funding: The Global Change Center, The Fralin Life Sciences Institute.  

Recent papers and news: 

,

In their environment, insects are submitted to thermal fluctuations and have developed a suite of responses, both physiological and behavioral, to minimize the deleterious consequences that high temperature might cause. Some species even actively regulate their internal temperature independently of the environmental temperature (i.e. thermoregulation). If these insects can overcome the thermal constraints imposed by their environment, those that feed on warm-blooded vertebrate hosts have no choice but to experience a thermal stress at each feeding event.

We are studying how blood-sucking arthropods including mosquitoes, kissing bugs, tsetse flies and ticks deal with the ingestion of a hot blood meal. In particular, we are interested in understanding the physiological, behavioral and molecular adaptations that have evolved to withstand heat stress during blood-feeding. We are also interested in mechanisms of thermal adaptation in mosquitoes.   

Students involved: Joanna Reinhold, Ryan Shaw

Current collaborators:  Dr. Claudio Lazzari (IRBI, CNRS, France), Dr. Mariangela Bonizzoni (Univeristy of Pavia, Italy)

Funding: The Global Change Center  

Recent papers and news

  • Benoit J.B., Lazzari C.R., Denlinger D.L. and C. Lahondère. (2019). Thermoprotective adaptations are critical for arthropods feeding on warm-blooded hosts. Current Opinion in Insect Science. (34):7-11.

  • Lazzari C.R., Fauquet A.** and Lahondère C. (2018). Keeping cool: kissing bugs avoid cannibalism thermoregulating. Journal of Insect Physiology. (107):29–33.

  • Lahondère C., Insausti T., Paim RMM, Luan X., Belev G., Pereira M.H., Ianowski J.P. and C.R. Lazzari (2017). Countercurrent heat exchange and thermoregulation during blood-feeding in kissing bugs. eLife. 2017; 6:e26107.