BSL-3 Insectarium


Many tropical infectious agents are transmitted by bloodsucking arthropods (so-called vectors), including mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, mites or bugs. In particular, viruses such as the West Nile, Dengue or Zika viruses, but also pathogens causing malaria or sleeping sickness, are among the pathogens that are transmitted by arthropod vectors.

To research the interactions between vectors and pathogens, the BNITM maintains various arthropod breeding facilities and has been operating a Biological Security Level 3 (BSL-3) safety insectarium since 2012. Here, for example, studies are conducted on the vector competence of mosquitoes with different tropical viruses. This laboratory contains special structural safety features, such as separate access regulations, staggered negative pressure and a personal air shower. Here, arthropod infection experiments with pathogens up to protection level 3 can be carried out.

To be seen are 3 mosquitoes at the blood meal: a blood-soaked Q-tip on which 3 mosquitoes are sitting. One mosquito has visibly drunk blood, because the abdomen is reddish bulging.
Mosquito during blood meal   ©BNITM
A mosquito under bionoculars: a researcher in white protective clothing is seen from behind looking through a bionocular. She wears purple gloves, holds a pair of tweezers in each hand and works in a Petri dish in which a mosquito swims in a transparent liquid.
Mosquito under bionocular   ©BNITM
View from above of researchers working with laboratory utensils wearing protective clothing in the Level 3 safety laboratory
View from above of researchers working with laboratory equipment in the BSL3 Insectarium   ©BNITM

For the necessary experiments on arthropod infection and manipulation, the BSL-3 insectarium is equipped with glovebox, safety workbench, incubators and climatic chambers, as well as magnifying microscopes, injectors and CO2 insufflation pads for anaesthetising the arthropods.

Within the framework of collaborations, the BSL-3 insectarium is also made available to external working groups or experiments are carried out for external partners by BNITM staff. In addition, further training in the handling of arthropods can be offered in individual cases.

The BSL-3 Insectarium is an infrastructure funded by the German Centre for Infection Research (DZIF).


  • Prof. Dr  Esther Schnettler
  • Management BSL-3 insectarium
  • phone: +49 40 285380-208
  • email:
  • Dr  Anna Heitmann
  • Management arthropod breeding
  • phone: +49 40 285380-832
  • fax: +49 40 285380-836
  • email: