Interstadial variation in the attachment sites of Ixodes ricinus ticks on sheep

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The spatial aggregation of ticks feeding on vertebrate hosts has been recognized for some time but, for hosts supporting more than one stage of the tick, observations of interstadial variation in the site of attachment have not previously been quantified. This study showed that all three parasitic stages of Ixodes ricinus ticks feeding on sheep attach most commonly to the hair-covered areas of the head and limbs while few ticks attach to the fleeced region of the body. However, significant differences were observed in the site of attachment of the three feeding stages of the tick. Larvae attached to distal limbs and rostral areas of the head and adult females attached to the proximal areas of the limbs and around the neck and ears, while nymphs attached in locations between the larvae and adults. The importance of the spatial aggregation of the ticks and interstadial variation in their distribution on the host, for the transmission of tick-borne pathogens and the epidemiology of the diseases they cause, is discussed.

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