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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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The Arthropod-Borne Animal Diseases Research Unit (ABADRU) insectary at the Center for Grain and Animal Health Research is the largest gnat ranch in the United States of America. They produce 2.5 million biting midges a year that are used by researchers around the country (Figure 1).  

Having a steady year-round supply of insects allows scientists to conduct research such as insecticide susceptibility, diapause induction and termination, salivary studies, and infection studies.  The insectary has maintained midge colonies for over 50 years and during that time several advancements have made midge rearing more efficient such as a customized rearing rack system, artificial blood feeding apparatus, and special rearing media and food. Although only native species of mosquitoes and  Culicoides are reared at the facilities so there is no possibilities of introducing exotic insects to Kansas; the insectary staff has several biosecurity elements such as air curtains and insect traps to collect stray insects from escaping the facilities.  


Figure 1 Female biting Culicoides sonorensis

In addition to this, the insectary has no pathogens, so there is no chance of encountering infected insects or materials during the visits. Lastly, one of the big advancements in midge rearing was the use of artificial feeders. These blood feeders use sheep blood and artificial membranes made from silicon and nylons to feed the midges, therefore no animals are needed or harmed to provide blood meals. 

The open house hosted ~71 people from the USDA Center, Kansas State University, and the wide horizons classes at Manhattan High School.  During the tours the visitors were able to see the custom rearing facilities for mosquitoes and midges and saw the incubators that housed the adults (Figure 2) and the rearing racks (Figure 3). The history of ABADRU and their research results were also discussed. 

Figure 2 Insect incubators to control the temperature and humidity for the adult habitat

Figure 3 Larval midge rearing habitat


Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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