Searching for the Immature Stages of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae) in Leaf Litter and Soil in Texas.
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The standard tick collection methods of flagging and dragging are successful for collecting all stages of the blacklegged tick, Ixodes scapularis (Say) (Acari: Ixodidae), in the northern United States. However, for unknown reasons, these methods are unsuccessful for collecting the immature stages of I. scapularis in the southern United States. Thus, a different collection strategy was employed to search for the immature stages of I. scapularis in the southern state of Texas. Monthly sampling of three types of microhabitats potentially harboring ticks was conducted for 17 mo at the Big Thicket National Preserve. Samples of leaf litter, topsoil, and subsoil were placed within Berlese funnels to determine if the immature stages of I. scapularis are residing in these layers. No ticks were found in any of the 600 substrate samples examined. Along nearby trail edges in the same area, 656 adult I. scapularis (an average of 22.6 per 1,000 m2), as well as 268 immatures of other species (i.e., Amblyomma americanum (Linnaeaus) (Acari: Ixodidae) and Dermacentor variabilis (Say) (Acari: Ixodidae)) were collected using flagging and dragging. These results suggest that unlike speculations from previous studies in the southern United States, the immature stages of I. scapularis may not be residing in the leaf litter and soil layers in Texas. We hypothesize that they may be residing in their host's nests and burrows. Perhaps I. scapularis in the south is exhibiting a stage specific mixed host-seeking strategy by residing in nests and burrows as immatures, contributing to the geographical difference in Lyme disease prevalence between the northern and southern United States.