Research paper on abiotic factors and their influence on Ixodes ricinus activity - observations over a two-year period at several tick collection sites in Germany
Tick-borne diseases are a public health issue. To predict vector tick abundance and activity, it is necessary to understand the driving factors for these variables. In this study, the activity of Ixodes ricinus was investigated in forest and meadow habitats in Germany with a focus on abiotic factors. Ixodes ricinus adults, nymphs and larvae were caught by flagging over a period of 2 years. Microclimatic and weather conditions were recorded at the collection sites. Statistical models were applied to describe correlations between abiotic factors and tick activity in univariable and multivariable analyses. Tick activity was observed in a broad range of air temperature between 3 and 28 °C, and air humidity varied between 35 and 95%. In general, tick activity of nymphs and larvae was higher in forest habitats than that in meadows. With the exception of a single specimen of Dermacentor reticulatus, all ticks were Ixodes ricinus, most of them nymphs (63.2% in 2009 and 75.2% in 2010). For the latter, a negative binomial mixed-effects model fitted best to the observed parameters. The modelling results showed an activity optimum between 20 and 23 °C for air temperature and between 13 and 15 °C for ground temperature. In univariable analyses, the collection site, month, season, ground and air temperature were significant factors for the number of ticks caught and for all life stages. In the multivariable analysis, temperature, season and habitat turned out to be key drivers. Ixodes ricinus positive for RNA of tick-borne encephalitis virus was only found at a single sampling site. The results of this study can be used in risk assessments and to parameterise predictive models.