Microclimate influence in a physiological model of cattle-fever tick (Boophilus spp.) population dynamics Academic Article uri icon


  • Since their official eradication from the US in 1943, the cattle-tick species Boophilus microplus and Boophilus annulatus, vectors of bovine babesiosis, frequently have penetrated a quarantine zone established along the Texas-Mexico border designed to exclude them. Inspection and quarantine procedures have eradicated reinfestations successfully within the US, but increasing acaricide resistance in Mexican B. microplus populations poses a threat to future eradication efforts. Better understanding of interrelationships among Boophilus populations, their hosts, and vegetation communities in south Texas could improve prediction of the behavior of reintroduced Boophilus populations and increase management options. To this end, we constructed a simulation model to evaluate how microclimate, habitat (i.e. vegetation) heterogeneity, and within-pasture cattle movement may influence dynamics of Boophilus ticks in south Texas. Unlike previous Boophilus tick models, this model simulates dynamics at an hourly time-step, calculates all off-host dynamics as functions of temperature and relative humidity, and runs with ground-level microclimate data collected bi-hourly in three different habitat types. Sensitivity analysis of the model showed that temperatures and relative humidities created by habitat type, as well as engorged female mass, influenced tick population dynamics most strongly. Host habitat selection, initial number of larvae per cow, and the number of cells into which the simulated pasture was divided also had a strong influence. Population dynamics appeared moderately sensitive to the proportion of Bos indicus in cattle genotypes and the larval attachment rate, while appearing relatively insensitive to factors such as mortality rate of engorged females. When used to simulate laboratory experiments from the literature, the model predicted most observed life-history characteristics fairly well; however, it tended to underestimate oviposition duration, incubation duration, and egg mortality and overestimate larval longevity, especially at low temperatures and high humidities. Use of the model to predict Boophilus population dynamics in hypothetical south Texas pastures showed that it reasonably generated qualitative patterns of stage-wise abundances but tended to overestimate on-host tick burdens. Collection and incorporation of data that appear not to exist for Boophilus ticks, such as larval lipid content and lipid-use rates, may improve model accuracy. Though this model needs refinements such as a smaller spatial resolution, it provides insight into responses of B. microplus or B. annulatus populations to specific weather patterns, habitat heterogeneity, and host movement. 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Corson, M. S., Teel, P. D., & Grant, W. E.

citation count

  • 50

complete list of authors

  • Corson, MS||Teel, PD||Grant, WE

publication date

  • January 2004