Samples of seven of the 10 morphological species of midges of the Culicoides imicola complex were considered. The importance of this species complex is connected to its vectorial capacity for African horse sickness virus (AHSV) and bluetongue virus (BTV). Consequently, the risk of transmission may vary dramatically, depending upon the particular cryptic species present in a given area. The species complex is confined to the Old World and our samples were collected in Southern Africa, Madagascar and the Ivory Coast. Genomic DNA of 350 randomly sampled individual midges from 19 populations was amplified using four 20-mer primers by the random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) technique. One hundred and ninety-six interpretable polymorphic bands were obtained. Species-specific RAPD profiles were defined and for five species diagnostic RAPD fragments were identified. A high degree of polymorphism was detected in the species complex, most of which was observed within populations (from 64 to 76%). Principal coordinate analysis (PCO) and cluster analysis provided an estimate of the degree of variation between and within populations and species. There was substantial concordance between the taxonomies derived from morphological and molecular data. The amount and the different distributions of genetic (RAPD) variation among the taxa can be associated to their life histories, i.e. the abundance and distribution of the larval breeding sites and their seasonality.