A standardized method for the construction of a tick drag/flag sampling approach and evaluation of sampling efficacy

  • Brent C. NewmanEmail author
  • William B. Sutton
  • Yong Wang
  • Callie J. Schweitzer
  • Abelardo C. Moncayo
  • Brian T. Miller


Drag sampling and flagging are two of the most effective and widely applied techniques to monitor tick populations. Despite the importance of this sampling strategy, there is a lack of standardized protocols for the construction of an inexpensive tick drag/flag. To this end, we provide a step-by-step protocol that details the construction of a tick drag/flag. We provide evidence of efficacy by comparing results obtained over 3-months at 108 locations within the William B. Bankhead National Forest, Alabama, USA. Overall, our drag/flag sampling approach yielded 1127 larvae, 460 nymphs, and 53 adults for a total of 1640 ticks representing three species. We detected significant patterns in Amblyomma americanum abundance for nymphs and adults with greater counts in June (β = 0.91 ± 0.36, 95% CI 0.55–1.27; β = 2.44 ± 0.63, 95% CI 1.81–3.07, respectively) and July (β = 0.73 ± 0.36, 95% CI 0.37–1.09; β = 1.65 ± 0.66, 95% CI 0.99–2.31, respectively) as compared to August. We also detected a significant difference in tick captures by tick drag/flag fabric type with greater captures when muslin was used as compared to flannel (β = 1.07 ± 0.06, 95% CI 1.01–1.13). Our goal is to provide instructions to assemble a highly effective tick drag/flag using minimal supplies. Evaluation and improvements of sampling techniques is essential to understand impacts of landscape management and larger stressors, such as climate change on tick populations but also for enhancing detection of invasive non-native species.


Acari Fabric Population assessment Surveillance Tick-borne disease 



We thank Allison Cochran (United States Forest Service) for forest stand access and logistical support at the William B. Bankhead National Forest and Mathew Purucker (Tennessee State University) for field sampling assistance. This research was supported by the United States Department Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture 1890 Institution Teaching, Research and Extension Capacity Building Grants (CBG) Program. We thank 2 anonymous reviewers for comments on earlier versions of the manuscript.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesTennessee State UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological and Environmental SciencesAlabama A&M UniversityHuntsvilleUSA
  3. 3.USDA Forest Service, Southern Research StationAshevilleUSA
  4. 4.Vector-Borne Diseases Program, Division of Communicable and Environmental Diseases and Emergency Preparedness, Tennessee Department of HealthNashvilleUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA

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