Living With Nutrient Monitoring

Rhodnius prolixus

Rhodnius prolixus
Photo: Thierry Heger

The kissing bug, Rodnius prolixus, feeds on the blood of mammals including humans. It is called the kissing bug after its habit of feeding on saliva. Rhodnius requires a blood meal in each immature stage. Laboratory studies of Rhodnius have elucidated some of its feeding secrets. How does a bug decide whether or not to feed?

Rhodnius has a sucking tube that it can use to sip saliva from the skin surface or stick into the skin to drink blood. It will also feed on artificial solutions in the laboratory. Liquids are pumped by the pharynx into the insect. As the liquid passes the pharynx, it passes taste receptors responsive to nutrients in the liquid. The energy molecule, ATP, is detected and will act as a feeding stimulant. Receptors measure the concentration and ratios of sodium and potassium salts in the liquid. Only salt concentrations between 0.1 and 0.15 M trigger feeding. This is the concentration range of these salts in blood. Liquids with high salt concentration (> 3M) are rejected as are liquids that lack salts. Salts are monitored continuously during feeding. A sudden change in salt concentration outside the acceptable range will terminate feeding.

Rhodnius depends on blood for survival. It has evolved receptors and sensory feedback that trigger feeding on liquids that mimic blood and reject liquids that are not similar enough to blood. Rhodnius is adapted to engorge on blood but drink little of other liquids.

Gina Pontesa, Marcos H. Pereirab & Romina B. Barrozoa. Salt controls feeding decisions in a blood-sucking insect. Journal of Insect Physiology Volume 98, April 2017, Pages 93–100.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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1 Response to Living With Nutrient Monitoring

  1. Pingback: Living With Nutrient Monitoring – Entomo Planet

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