Between July and September 2002 there were outbreaks of bluetongue on three sheep holdings in the communities of San Gregorio Magno (Salerno, Campania), Laviano (Salerno, Campania) and Carpino (Foggia, Puglia), and the involvement of bluetongue virus (BTV) was confirmed serologically and virologically. The mortality rate was at least 11 per cent and involved BTV serotype 2 (BTV-2) and serotype 9 (BTV-9). These holdings were also surveyed for the Culicoides (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae) vectors; approximately 10,000 midges belonging to 15 species were captured, but they did not include a single specimen of the classical Afro-Asiatic bluetongue vector, Culicoides imicola. Species belonging to the Obsoletus complex dominated the light-trap collections, and Culicoides obsoletus Meigen, Culicoides scoticus Downes and Kettle and Culicoides dewulfi Goetghebuer constituted 90 per cent of all the Culicoides species captured. Fifty-six pools of the Obsoletus complex (excluding C dewulfi), each containing 100 individual midges and containing only parous and gravid females, were assayed for virus. BTV-2 was isolated from three pools from San Gregorio Magno and Carpino, and BTV-9 was isolated from one pool from Laviano. These results indicate that a species other than C imicola is involved in the current re-emergence of bluetongue in the Mediterranean Basin, but whether it is C obsoletus sensu stricto or C scoticus, or both, is uncertain.