Phlebotomine sand flies were collected using CO2 baited CDC light trap in 2000 and 2001 in limestone areas and caves of western Malaysia. A total of 1,548 specimens were collected comprising 18 species from two genera: Phlebotomus (6 spp) and Sergentomyia (12 spp). Phlebotomus major major (38.9%) was the predominant species followed by Sergentomyia perturbans (20.1%), P. stantoni (15.3%) and others. Biting activity of the sand flies at the Gua Senyum caves, Gua Kota Gelanggi, Batu caves and Gua Kelam were observed using the bare leg landing catch (BLC) technique. Four Phlebotomus spp at Gua Senyum were found to bite humans with a unimodal biting peak (between 01:00 and 04:00 AM). At Gua Kota Gelanggi P. major major was observed to bite humans, but at Batu Caves and Gua Kelam no sand flies were observed to bite humans. Sergentomyia spp did not feed on humans even though high numbers were caught in light traps. The populations of phleobotomine sand flies fluctuated, with several peaks especially among P. major major which peaked in December and was low in February and August. Phlebotomus stantoni was abundant throughout 2001. Most species populations were weakly related to rainfall because they inhabited caves.
Certain species of Phlebotomine sandflies (Diptera: Psychodidae) are vectors of the protozoa which causes leishmaniasis. Sandflies are found breeding in enclosed places like caves. Thailand is a popular tourist destination, including for ecotourism activities like caving, which increases the risk of contact between tourists and sandflies. Surveillance of sandflies is important for monitoring this risk but identification of species based on morphology is challenged by phenotypic plasticity and cryptic diversity. DNA barcodes have been used for the identification of sandflies in Thailand. We collected sandflies using CDC light trap from four tourist caves in Northern Thailand. Female sandflies were provisionally sorted into 13 morphospecies and 19 unidentified specimens. DNA was extracted from the thorax and legs of sandflies and the DNA barcode region of cytochrome c oxidase I mtDNA amplified and sequenced. The specimens were sorted into 22 molecular operational taxonomic units (MOTU) based on the 145 DNA barcodes, which is significantly more than the morphospecies. Several of the taxa thought to be present in multiple caves, based on morphospecies sorting, split into cave-specific MOTU which likely represent cryptic species. Several MOTU reported in an earlier study from Wihan Cave, Thailand, were also found in these caves. This supports the use of DNA barcodes to investigate species diversity of sandflies and their useful role in surveillance of sandflies in Thailand.