Effect of snow cover on the off-host survival of Dermacentor variabilis (Acari: Ixodidae) larvae

TitleEffect of snow cover on the off-host survival of Dermacentor variabilis (Acari: Ixodidae) larvae
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
JournalJ Med Entomol
Start Page46
Date Published01/2024
AuthorsDiyes CP, Yunik ME, Dergousoff SJ, Chilton NB
KeywordsAmerican dog tick, overwintering, snow cover, survival, unfed larvae

The geographical range of the American dog tick, Dermacentor variabilis (Say), in Canada continues to expand northwards into areas with colder winter temperatures. Understanding what influences the off-host survival of D. variabilis over winter is important for predicting the northern distributional limit of this species. A field experiment was conducted to determine the effect of snow cover on the off-host survival of unfed D. variabilis larvae from a population situated near the northern distributional limit in Saskatchewan, Canada. Ticks were placed in tubes within 1 of 9 field enclosures (tickaria) in early fall. The 9 tickaria were divided into 3 equal treatment groups: no snow cover, natural snow cover (maximum depth of 25 cm) and extra snow cover (maximum depth of 32 cm). Tick survival was measured in mid-winter and in early spring (i.e., ~17 and ~26 wk after start of experiment). The results showed that snow cover had a significant impact on the relative humidity, but not temperature, in the tickaria. Larvae in tickaria with no snow cover had a higher mortality rate (27%) than larvae in tickaria with natural snow cover (6%) or extra snow cover (4%). Although snow cover enhanced off-host survival, many individuals were able to survive in sub-zero temperatures under leaf litter in the absence of continuous snow cover for a period of 108 days.