• climate;
  • nasal bot fly;
  • Cephenemyia trompe;
  • northern pastoral economy;
  • reindeer productivity;
  • warble fly;
  • Hypoderma tarandi;
  • Rangifer tarandus

Considerable behavioural evidence supports harassment by insects as the most important causal link between warm summer temperatures and low body condition of reindeer Rangifer tarandus, and that insect activity is influenced by weather condition. However, much less is known about the effect of insect harassment on individual performance, measured as reduced weight gain during summer, and the related consequences on both the reindeer pastoral economy and reindeer as a biological resource. Using climatic data, this paper develops a simple index for the analysis of insect harassment that takes into consideration weather variables known to significantly affect insect activity and/or the level of insect harassment. The insect harassment index, which is based on mid-day ambient temperature ≥13 °C, wind speed <6 m/s and cloud cover <40%, is further used to test the hypothesis that insect harassment has a negative effect on reindeer performance during summer in three Norwegian populations. Results show that harassment by insects negatively affects the autumn weight of reindeer calves, most probably through reduced grazing time and increased energy expenditure, but also indirectly by negatively influencing milk production of the dam. Moreover, female calves were more vulnerable to insect harassment than males. Insect harassment may have consequences on future reproductive performance, calving time, calf birth weight and hence neonatal mortality, and thus affect reindeer productivity. The presented index is easy to estimate and may be used to quantify and compare harassment levels on various reindeer summer grazing areas for management purposes. Our results also suggest that the expected temperature increase in the course of global warming may increase the insect-related stress on reindeer.