Start Date

April 2021

Document Type

Poster Session

Department

Biological Sciences

Faculty Mentor

Christine Maher, PhD

Keywords

deer tick, Ixodidae, larvae, questing, behavior, temperature, host-seeking

Abstract

Understanding deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) behavior is increasingly important due to the species’ northerly range expansion, and consequently, increased human contact. Deer ticks are a major public health concern, as they are the primary vector of Lyme disease and other serious diseases. Differences in questing behavior are of considerable interest as fluctuating weather due to climate change effect the species’ range expansion and time spent questing. Although previous research has examined temperature preferences of tick behavior, there are conflicting reports about direct effects on questing activity. Therefore, I addressed the relationship between temperature and questing behavior of adult deer ticks. I predicted that most ticks exhibit questing behavior when exposed to intermediate temperatures, which are closest to average temperatures when ticks are active in Maine. My experiment exposed deer ticks to cold (10˚C), intermediate (20˚C), and warm temperatures (30˚C) in an enclosed arena with wooden rods placed into a leaf litter substrate. I observed the ticks determine the proportion that exhibit questing behavior, as well as location in the enclosure. For standardized observation, I counted the number of ticks crawling on the surface of the leaf litter, on arena walls, and on rods. The results revealed the highest questing activity occurred at the intermediate temperature. Overall, females quested more often than males. Females were much more likely to quest than males in the cold treatment. The results provide further understanding into tick questing behavior in three different temperatures.

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Apr 30th, 12:00 AM

Effect of temperature on questing activity of Ixodes scapularis in a laboratory setting

Understanding deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) behavior is increasingly important due to the species’ northerly range expansion, and consequently, increased human contact. Deer ticks are a major public health concern, as they are the primary vector of Lyme disease and other serious diseases. Differences in questing behavior are of considerable interest as fluctuating weather due to climate change effect the species’ range expansion and time spent questing. Although previous research has examined temperature preferences of tick behavior, there are conflicting reports about direct effects on questing activity. Therefore, I addressed the relationship between temperature and questing behavior of adult deer ticks. I predicted that most ticks exhibit questing behavior when exposed to intermediate temperatures, which are closest to average temperatures when ticks are active in Maine. My experiment exposed deer ticks to cold (10˚C), intermediate (20˚C), and warm temperatures (30˚C) in an enclosed arena with wooden rods placed into a leaf litter substrate. I observed the ticks determine the proportion that exhibit questing behavior, as well as location in the enclosure. For standardized observation, I counted the number of ticks crawling on the surface of the leaf litter, on arena walls, and on rods. The results revealed the highest questing activity occurred at the intermediate temperature. Overall, females quested more often than males. Females were much more likely to quest than males in the cold treatment. The results provide further understanding into tick questing behavior in three different temperatures.

 

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