Diurnal Detachment of Immature Deer Ticks (Ixodes dammini) from Nocturnal Hosts

Thomas N. Mather Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

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Andrew Spielman Department of Tropical Public Health, Harvard School of Public Health, 665 Huntington Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

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To test the possibility that immature deer ticks (Ixodes dammini) may concentrate in the nests of their mouse hosts, we recorded their pattern of detachment. In laboratory experiments, most engorged larvae (>90%) and nymphs (>80%) detached from hamsters between 1200–2000 hours when the 14-hr photophase began at 0600 hours. Time of drop-off was similar regardless of when ticks attached to hosts, but attachment late in the day delayed drop-off by one full day. Ticks detached similarly from naturally-infested Peromyscus leucopus. A post-attachment cue or cues appeared to regulate time of detachment. Such synchronous diurnal detachment may serve to concentrate ticks in the nests of their nocturnal mouse hosts, thereby enhancing pathogen transmission.

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