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Rodents play a significant role in enzootic cycles of tick-borne pathogens, notably, in the northern hemisphere, tick-borne encephalitis virus and
Lyme borreliosis spirochaetes. The relative numbers of nymphal and larval ticks feeding on rodents are crucial variables in determining the probability of rodent infection and the degree of amplification of infection prevalence in the tick population. Manipulation of the microclimate within quasinatural experimental arenas revealed that under increasingly dry conditions the numbers of unfed nymphal Ixodes ricinus L. questing in upper layers of the herbage decreased, whereas the rate of fat use and the numbers of nymphs feeding on small rodents, both increased. This is consistent with nymphs descending to the moist lower vegetation layers for water replenishment, where they would come into contact with small hosts. Very few larvae quested or fed on rodents under the dry conditions, but many more did so once the humidity increased, suggesting that larvae escape desiccation by becoming quiescent. The ratio of larvae to nymphs feeding on rodents thus increases with increasing humidity, contributing to the seasonal and geographical variation in
disease transmission dynamics.