a1 Department of Entomology, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK
The growth of populations of Triatoma infestans (Klug) depends on temperature and blood-intake. Experiments are described which demonstrated the density-dependent relationship between population size, blood intake and population growth at different temperatures. The number of bugs feeding and their mean blood intake was lower at high bug densities than at low ones, both with restrained chickens and with unrestrained mice as hosts. When blood intake was restricted, the development times of all nymphal stages were increased, and female fecundity was decreased. Previous work showed also that reduced blood intake led to an increased tendency for adult flight. It is thought that at high bug density the three factors, increased development times, decreased fecundity and increased flight, operate to restore the population to a stable density without promoting an increase in mortality. The mechanism linking population density to nutritional status seemed to depend on host irritability, which interrupted the bugs' feeding. Bugs which passed a certain threshold meal size would not resume feeding if interrupted, even though their blood intake was well below normal. The difference between the minimal threshold meal and a normal meal is thought to provide the nutritional elasticity within which the development processes are regulated. It is suggested that this mechanism is characteristic of K-strategists, whereas r–strategists such as mosquitoes tend to continue attacking, even if interrupted, until they achieve a normal meal.
(Received April 22 1982)