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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Responses of Blacklegged and American Dog Ticks (Acari:ixodidae) to Host Urine

Author
item Carroll, John

Submitted to: Journal of Medical Entomology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 24, 1998
Publication Date: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Black-legged ticks and American dog ticks are the principal vectors of Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the U. S. Host acquisition is crucial to the survival and reproduction of ticks. Reports in the literature suggest that adults of these ticks may detect urine produced by host species and wait on or near it to contact passing animals. White-footed mice are the principal hosts of black-legged tick larvae and nymphs, and white-tailed deer are the principal hosts of adult black-legged ticks. In laboratory behavioral trials we found that black-legged tick larvae tended to avoid urine from male white-footed mice, and nymphs showed neither an avoidance nor attraction to urine of either sex of white-footed mice. Adult black-legged ticks avoided urine from male white-tailed deer even when the urine was diluted in water to one part in one thousand. Likewise, adult American dog ticks did not remain on or near dried male dog gurine. These results indicate that further research is needed to clarify whether host urine tends to protect the host through some repellency to ticks, or in some circumstances (urine composition changes due to diet and other factors) aid ticks in finding hosts. Researchers interested in tick behavior and control will benefit from this study. It may be possible to discover a component in host urine causing avoidance, and use it to deter host-seeking ticks from areas of human activity.

Technical Abstract: In laboratory bioassays, host-seeking female blacklegged ticks, Ixodes scapularis Say avoided urine of male white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus (Zimmermann), the principal host species of the adult stage. Larval I. scapularis avoided urine from male white-footed mice, Peromyscus leucopus (Rafinesque), a major host for immature blacklegged ticks. Although nymphal I. scapularis did not show a statistically significant avoidance response to P. leucopus urine of either sex, more ticks were on untreated plastic discs than on urine-treated ones, indicating indifference to host urine if not avoidance of it. American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say) adults of both sexes avoided dog urine.

Last Modified: 11/26/2014