In search of the Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus in the western-central regions of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

M Yawa, N Nyangiwe, C T Kadzere, V Muchenje, T C Mpendulo, M C Marufu
Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases 2019 January 25
The southern cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, is an economically important tick that parasitises cattle and is found on other host species if they graze with cattle. The R. (B.) microplus is a highly adapted tick species prevalent in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. In Africa, it has expanded its range and was reported to supersede the native tick, R. (B.) decoloratus. The objective of the study was to determine the distribution of R. (B.) microplus under different ecological zones in the western-central regions of Eastern Cape Province. Engorged adult blue ticks were collected monthly from 360 randomly selected cattle and free living ticks from six replicate drags of the vegetation over a period of 1 year at Bedford Dry Grassland (BDG), Kowie Thicket (KT) and Bhisho Thornveld (BT). A special attention was paid to the lower perineum, neck, dewlap and ventral body parts which are the preferred sites for blue ticks during sampling. In this study, 9 species of ticks which grouped under 5 genera were identified. The identified species of ticks were Amblyomma hebraeum, Haemaphysalis elliptica, Hyalomma rufipes, Ixodes pilosus, R. (B.) decoloratus, R. appendiculatus, R. evertsi evertsi, R. follis and R. simus. Only adult R. (B.) decoloratus (n = 8090) ticks were collected from cattle between April 2016 and March 2017. A total of 4382 females and 3708 males of R. (B.) decoloratus were recovered during the survey. Of the ticks (n = 2885) collected from the vegetation, R. (B.) decoloratus was the most abundant species with a relative prevalence of 58.16%, followed by R. appendiculatus (18.37%) and R. evertsi evertsi (16.90%). Least abundant ticks were H. rufipes (2.98%), A. hebraeum (2.46%), H. elliptica (0.38%), R. follis (0.34%), I. pilosus (0.24%) and R. simus (0.17%). The distribution of R. (B.) decoloratus ticks differ significantly (P < 0.05) among the vegetation types. Significantly more (P < 0.05) engorged R. (B.) decoloratus were collected in KT during summer season (1.39 ± 0.063 females and 1.30 ± 0.063 males) compared to other vegetation types. The R. (B.) decoloratus larvae were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in BT (20.56±1.154) and KT (18.50±1.154) vegetation types during the spring season. R. (B.) microplus was not found in the present study, signifying that it is not yet established in western-central regions of the Eastern Cape Province and as such, continuous monitoring would be advisable.

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