The bioecology of phlebotomine sand flies is intimately linked to the utilization of environmental resources including plant feeding. However, plant feeding behavior of sand flies
remains largely understudied for Afrotropical species. Here, using a combination of biochemical, molecular, and chemical approaches, we decipher specific plant-feeding associations in field-collected sand flies from a dry ecology endemic for leishmaniasis in Kenya.
Cold-anthrone test indicative of recent plant feeding showed that fructose positivity rates
were similar in both sand fly sexes and between those sampled indoors and outdoors. Analysis of derived sequences of the ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase large subunit gene
(rbcL) from fructose-positive specimens implicated mainly Acacia plants in the family Fabaceae (73%) as those readily foraged on by both sexes of Phlebotomus and Sergentomyia.
Chemical analysis by high performance liquid chromatography detected fructose as the
most common sugar in sand flies and leaves of selected plant species in the Fabaceae family. Analysis of similarities (ANOSIM) of the headspace volatile profiles of selected Fabaceae plants identified benzyl alcohol, (Z)-linalool oxide, (E)-β-ocimene, p-cymene, p-cresol,
and m-cresol, as discriminating compounds between the plant volatiles. These results indicate selective sand fly plant feeding and suggest that the discriminating volatile organic
compounds could be exploited in attractive toxic sugar- and odor- bait technologies control