Recolonization of bat roost by bat bugs (Cimex pipistrelli): could parasite load be a cause of bat roost switching?
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Roost ectoparasites are believed to have a negative impact on fitness of their hosts as birds or mammals. Previous studies were mostly focussed on the synchronization between reproduction cycles of ectoparasites and hosts living in infested roosts. However, to date, it has not been examined how fast ectoparasites colonize new, non-infested roosts and thus increasing the impact on the local populations of hosts. The parasite–host model was studied, including bat bugs Cimex pipistrelli and soprano pipistrelles Pipistrellus pygmaeus, where bat behaviour was observed which tended to reduce the parasite load in bat roosts. We investigated (1) whether bats change their roosting behaviour when we discontinued synchronization of their reproduction and the life cycle of the bat bugs and (2) how fast and which stages of bat bugs reoccupy cleaned roosts. In a 3-year field experiment, we removed all bat bugs from six bat boxes in each spring. Pipistrelles bred young in all non-infested boxes during these 3 years. In addition, 8 years of regular observations before this experiment indicate that bats avoided breeding in the same bat boxes at all. Bat bugs were found again in clean boxes in mid-May. However, their densities did not maximise before the beginning of June, before parturition. A re-appearance of bugs was observed after 21–56 days after the first bat visit. Adult bugs, mainly females, colonised cleaned boxes first though at the same time there were a lot of younger and smaller instars in non-manipulated roosts in the vicinity.
KeywordsParasite Load Lactation Period Floodplain Forest Internal Relative Humidity Ectoparasite Load
We are very grateful to J. Gaisler for his valuable comments on the manuscript and Josef Chytil for help with fieldwork. This study was supported by grant no. 206/07/P098 of the Science Foundation of the Czech Republic and the Czech Bat Conservation Trust, and by grants from the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic no. MSM0021622416. The boxes were checked under the licence no. 922/93-OOP/2884/93 and 137/06/38/MK/E/07 of the Ministry of Environment of the Czech Republic. The authors have also been authorized to handle free-living bats according to the certificate of competency no. 104/2002-V4 (§17, law no. 246/1992).
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