Failure by engorged stages of the lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum, to react to assembly pheromone, guanine and uric acid

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Response to tick-exposed filter paper discs (tick excreta) by fed and non-fed stages of the lone star tick Amblyomma americanum (L.) (Acari: Ixodidae) was examined from larva to adult. By contrast with engorged stages, each non-fed stage exhibited a classic arrestment response to assembly pheromone, characterized by lack of movement, retraction of legs and formation of small groups; this response was seen in approximately 75% of ticks that made contact with pheromone-treated surfaces. Less pronounced arrestment (by approximately 66% of ticks) was elicited by (0.001–0.005 M) guanine as the active pheromonal ingredient and by uric acid, a chief excretory product of birds. Lack of response to arrestment cues post-engorgement suggests that this response is kairomonal where guanine mimics uric acid as a host cue that signals immature A. americanum's preferred bird host. The functional overlap simultaneously favours tick retention in areas with an abundance of successful ticks, signalled by a heavy bout of excretion (guanine) soon after hatching and moulting. Control significance pertains to the use of these compounds as trap arrestants, but not attractants, with advantages in effectiveness against any non-fed stage.

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