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Effect of forest clearing on the abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks and the prevalence of Borrelia burgdorferi s.l.

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Abstract

Questing Ixodes ricinus L. (Acari: Ixodidae) ticks were collected on a forest trail that had been completely cleared of shrubs and ground vegetation in winter 2002 and on a nearby control uncleared forest transect in South Moravia (Czech Republic). Samples were collected each May in 2003, 2004 and 2005. Nymphal ticks were 3.4 times, 1.9 times and 1.2 times less frequent on cleared forest than on uncleared forest trails in the three respective years, whereas adult tick abundance was 27.2 times, 4.0 times and 2.2 times lower, respectively. The ticks were examined for borreliae by dark-field microscopy: prevalence of nymphal ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (12.6% to 20.0%) did not differ significantly between the cleared and uncleared trail during the 3 years. In conclusion, the habitat modification appeared to result in a decreased abundance of I. ricinus as well as a reduced frequency of infected ticks (and thus indirectly a lower potential risk of
Lyme borreliosis), which lasted, however, for only 2 years. Eight cultures of borreliae isolated from the ticks were all identified as the ‘ornithophilic’ genomic species Borrelia garinii, possibly indicating a greater role of forest birds than that of forest rodents as the hosts of immature I. ricinus in the tick (and borrelial) colonization of the cleared part of the forest.

Med Vet Entomol. 2006 Jun;20(2):166-72. Comparative Study; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t

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