Date of Award
Bachelor of Science
tick, pH, Albany, survival, soil
The blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the primary vector of Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. When a tick is not questing or feeding, the majority of its life is spent within the soil. Abiotic factors within soil have been shown to affect tick molting and survival across all life stages. Soil pH, however, has not been heavily investigated. In this field study, I investigated the effects of soil pH and texture on engorged nymphal ticks. Two sites were chosen to encompass the extremes of soil pH in the region; the Albany Pine Bush in Albany, NY has acidic, loam soils and Wolf Hollow in Schenectady, NY has more alkaline, silt-loam soils. In July 2013, four plots, each containing three treatments (undisturbed soil/unaltered pH, disturbed soil/unaltered pH, and disturbed soil/altered pH), were placed at each site. Engorged nymphs were collected from chipmunks and placed within soil cores in each plot. Tick body burden data on the chipmunks was also collected and analyzed, revealing that scrotal males had significantly higher body burdens than non-scrotal males. Tick drags were also conducted at the end of July, confirming that the Albany Pine Bush had higher tick densities. In October 2013, the cores were removed and searched for surviving adult ticks. Although there was significant variation in survival, neither pH nor texture explained the pattern. The disappearances of ticks combined with finding insects within the cores suggest an avenue for further research.
Cook, Colleen, "The Effects of Soil pH and Texture on the Molting Success and Survival of Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis): A Field Experiment" (2014). Honors Theses and Student Projects. 502.