Ecological preferences and seasonal dynamics of ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) on and off bovine hosts in the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

M Yawa, N Nyangiwe, V Muchenje, C T Kadzere, T C Mpendulo, M C Marufu
Experimental & Applied Acarology 2018, 74 (3): 317-328
A total of 31,425 ticks were collected from 10 cattle and also from six drag-samples during the 12-month study period. Adult ticks were removed from the right hand side of each animal and all instars of ticks were placed in containers filled with 70% ethanol. Based on morphological traits, 10 tick species were identified: Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) decoloratus (32.5%), R. evertsi evertsi (18.8%), R. appendiculatus (17.3%), Amblyomma hebraeum (16.3%), R. simus (7.7%), Ixodes pilosus (3.8%), Hyalomma rufipes (3.5%), R. follis (0.08%), Haemaphysalis elliptica (0.04%), H. silacea (0.02%). The southern African yellow dog tick, H. elliptica, was only found on vegetation. The agro-ecological zones differ significantly in tick species and their distribution. The A. hebraeum and R. evertsi evertsi counts were higher in Kowie Thicket (KT) during summer season (2.05 ± 0.01 and 1.00 ± 0.09, respectively) compared to Bedford Dry Grassland (BDG) and Bhisho Thornveld (BT) veld types. In all vegetation types, R. appendiculatus had higher counts in KT in spring (0.91 ± 0.08), summer (0.78 ± 0.08) and winter (0.78 ± 0.08). Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) decoloratus was more frequent in the BT (1.78 ± 0.11) during the summer season. BDG had lower tick infestation with R. evertsi evertsi being the most frequent species in summer. No H. rufipes was collected in the KT. Of epidemiological interest, R. (B.) microplus was absent in the study area which needs further investigation. Within the context of this study, we found agro-ecological differences and seasonal variations to have influence on tick species distribution.

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