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Survival and energy use of Ixodes scapularis nymphs throughout their overwintering period

Burtis, James C., Fahey, Timothy J., Yavitt, Joseph B.
Parasitology 2019 v.146 no.6 pp. 781-790
Ixodes scapularis, energy, hosts, larvae, nymphs, overwintering, soil, soil organic matter, spring, summer, survival rate, ticks, winter, New York
The blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) spends up to 10 months in the soil between feeding as larvae and questing for hosts as nymphs the following year. We tracked the survival and energy use of 4320 engorged larvae evenly divided across 288 microcosms under field conditions from September to July on sites with high (>12 nymphs/150 m²) and low (<1.2 nymphs/150 m²) densities of naturally questing I. scapularis in New York State. Subsets of microcosms were destructively sampled periodically during this period to determine tick survivorship and physiological age. Across all sites tick mortality was low during the winter and increased in the spring and early summer, coincident with increasing energy use. Neither energy use nor mortality differed significantly between sites with high vs low natural tick density, but we did observe a significant positive relationship between soil organic matter content and the survival of I. scapularis during the spring. Our results suggest that the off-host mortality and energy use of I. scapularis nymphs is relatively low in the winter and increases significantly in the spring and early summer.