Entomological risk factors for potential transmission of Rift Valley fever virus around concentrations of livestock in Colorado.
Rift Valley fever virus (RVFV) poses a major threat of introduction to several continents, including North America. Such an introduction could cause significant losses to the livestock industry, in addition to substantial human morbidity and mortality. Because of the opportunistic blood host selection of Culex tarsalis mosquitoes, we hypothesized that this species could be an important bridge vector of RVFV near feedlots in the event of an introduction. We investigated the mosquito community composition at livestock feedlots and surrounding natural and residential areas to determine differences in mosquito relative abundance and blood feeding patterns attributed to cattle feeding operations. DNA extracted from abdomens of blood-fed mosquitoes were sequenced to determine host identity. Multivariate regression analyses revealed differences between mosquito community assemblages at feedlots and non-feedlot sites (p<0.05), with this effect driven largely by differential abundances of Aedes vexans (padj<0.05). Mosquito diversity was lower on feedlots than surrounding areas for three out of four feedlots. Culex tarsalis was abundant at both feedlots and nearby sites. Diverse vertebrate blood meals were detected in Cx. tarsalis at non-feedlot sites, with a shift towards feeding on cattle at feedlots. These data support a potential for Cx. tarsalis to serve as a bridge vector of RVFV between livestock and humans in Colorado.