The association of immature ixodid ticks, several species of rodents, and the
Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt & Brenner, was studied in two habitats in northern California in spring and summer 1985 and year-round in 1986. A total of 428 rodents were collected from ecotonal chaparral and a woodland-grass-rock outcrop; the former habitat yielded six species, the latter three species. The deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus (Wagner), and the piñon mouse, P. truei (Shufeldt), were the dominant species year-round and collectively comprised 78% of rodents captured within chaparral and 87% from the rock outcrop in 1986. In both habitats, rodents were trapped most frequently in winter and spring, and least often in summer and fall. A total of 306 rodent blood films from all six species were assayed for spirochetes by direct immunofluorescence; of these, only one film prepared from P. truei (n = 123 films from 53 individual mice) was found to contain spirochetes. Immature western black-legged ticks, Ixodes pacificus Cooley & Kohls, and Pacific Coast ticks, Dermacentor occidentalis Marx, were collected from each species of rodent. Larvae of I. pacificus infested P. maniculatus and P. truei in low numbers year-round, but nymphs of this tick rarely parasitized these rodents. D. occidentalis larvae infested P. maniculatus and P. truei in spring and particularly in summer; nymphal ticks infested these mice primarily in summer. The efficiency of visual inspection for collecting immatures of these ticks from P. maniculatus ranged from 45 to 69% in spring and summer, whereas the efficiency of a drop-off technique appeared to be 100%. Spirochetes were detected in <1% of D. occidentalis larvae (n = 310) and nymphs (n = 120), and in approximately 4% of I. pacificus larvae (n = 75) derived from these hosts. The potential significance od these findings in the enzootiology of B. burgdorferi is discussed.