A sandfly feeding on my blood

I just returned from Panama – a heaven for someone like me who loves biodiversity. Being in the middle of the jungle or small un-named islands is amazing; except for the part when you are being eaten alive by SandFlies.

I was in Bocas Del Toro; with Mangrove island. I took a kayak out on a very calm day in the ocean. And within 10 minutes I felt like I am being eaten alive by sandflies. I had so many bites that I was absolutely sure that I will get leishmaniasis. Long story short, I had to go to a pharmacy and get some compounds (Calamine) to reduce the itch you feel because of the bite.

After all that pain, I was sure I wanted to image sandflies. Here I use Scotch tape to get live flies who have been feeding on my arm – and I was surprised to see blood. It makes sense that when a fly/mosquito feeds on you, it’s tummy fills with blood. But it’s just the image of these flies eating you alive – that was too much.

Sandflies cause leishmaniasis; an infectious disease with terrible consequences. So speciation and identifying vectors (sand flies) and control spread of the disease is important. Here I use Foldscope to image live sandflies.

I have posted the video with my description. Watch till the end – the live gut is quiet amazing to watch.

Here are the two videos:


Ps: it’s interesting – while writing this post, suddenly my whole body started itching just like the itch I had in Panama. Is my body firing circuits that were engaged in my memory of that terrible itch.




10 Comments Add yours

  1. laksiyer says:

    Hi Manu. Couldnt see the video, but fantastic shots. Actually feeling the itch myself seeing the blood in the gut. Reminds me of the blood I used to see in transparent bedbug nymphs with a hand-held loupe.

  2. Manu Prakash says:

    The video is big and still uploading. Will provide links. You will be surprised with video of the gut 🙂


  3. Manu Prakash says:

    Just uploaded the two videos..

  4. laksiyer says:

    These are just stupendous pictures and videos. Foldscope can really change the way we look at small insects. You can now sit with an insect book and identify all the parts of the sandfly seeing this video and spotting peculiarities of each species.
    Firstly it is a female based on the last segment harboring the female genitalia,
    It doesnt have the pointed end on the wing so it isnt Phlebotomus. I wonder if those two loops are the ovaries. The trachea can be seen. More once I find a good source for comparison. Thanks for the videos.. have already seen them a few times over

  5. Manu Prakash says:

    @laksiyer: I would be delighted if you took the video and annotated it with the morphology. You can download the video from the Vimeo website and just use any of the video editing tool to mark specific morphology parts. It would be fantastic to really study morphology in live, living breathing (pulsing) insects. Thanks again for the key remarks. I think this annotation is very valuable, since it’s crucial to know and compare – because sometimes we don’t “see” what’s in front of us.


  6. Niramay Gogate says:

    Just great !!
    If you still have some of those flies ; can you try to feed them live under foldscope ?So that we could see how blood travels through their body. It will be amazing experience.

  7. laksiyer says:

    Hi Manu: Will be happy to do it and improve my own knowledge of insect anatomy. I know the basics but only when one sees such pictures/videos does one’s attention go into the details that are so important in any study. Also this is a good chance to learn about video editing software. Please let me know if you have any favorites.

  8. Manu Prakash says:

    @laksiyer: on video editing – I often use iMovie. It’s simple and very easy to start and gives excellent results. I am sure many options exist on windows.

    @Niramay: that would have been fun. It was so itchy – my brain had shut down at that time. I can only describe to you how terrible the experience was.

    But I will try the live feeding idea with mosquitoes. I got plenty of them in the lab.

  9. Manu Prakash says:

    @Niramay: we shipped the units to you – did you receive them. If not, I am willing to all to fedex today and ship you something With a tracking number. Please let me know.

  10. Manu Prakash says:

    At Trop med GRS meeting today, I met Thiago and ilais who work at NIH; and they helped ideintify this species – they pointed out its not a sabdfly but a biting midge –

    Possible species described here:

    Now I need to wait for someone to post some real sandfly data!!

    @cheick – you might be the first one to do it.


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