Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair(s)

Scott A. Bernhardt


Scott A. Bernhardt


Lee F. Rickords


Diane G. Alston


Carol D. von Dohlen


Zachariah Gompert


The prevalence of insecticide resistance in vector species around the world is a continuous threat for any success at mitigating the spread of vector-borne diseases. With a limited arsenal of new insecticides, it is crucial for public health programs to understand the geographic range and the genetic mechanisms of resistance to best approach controlling insect vectors. Insecticide resistance is being increasingly observed in phlebotomine sand fly (Diptera: Psychodidae) populations in both the Old World and New World. Sand flies transmit the protozoans that cause leishmaniasis, a disfiguring disease that kills tens of thousands of people each year. The goal of this dissertation was to have both an applied and basic research focus towards understanding resistance in phlebotomines. I began by comparing in vivo and in vitro methods for blood-feeding two species of sand flies, Phlebotomus papatasi and Lutzomyia longipalpis, in the laboratory, both of which are important leishmaniasis vectors. I investigated the susceptibility of both species to ten different insecticides by calculating lethal concentrations that caused varying levels of mortality. Based on these results, I determined diagnostic doses and diagnostic times for both species to the same ten insecticides using an accepted, but novel, assay for sand flies. Finally, I tested for known mechanisms of insecticide resistance in four artificially resistant-selected colonies of sand flies, as well as tested for novel resistance mechanisms. Through applied research, I developed methods for efficient sand fly rearing and for determination of population resistance to insecticides, tools that have worldwide applicability.

Through basic research, I determined that laboratory populations of sand flies have sufficient standing genetic variation needed to survive sublethal doses of insecticides; however, I was unable to develop artificially-selected colonies resistant to these insecticides. My research has generated information to provide new insights into the evolution of insecticide resistance in natural sand fly populations. My results support that resistance development may be possible, but evolutionary challenging, an encouraging finding that may be exploited by vector biologists and public health officials to prevent or slow the development of resistance in sand flies to insecticides