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The effects of sampling method and vegetation type on the estimated abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks in forests

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Estimating the spatial and temporal variation in tick abundance is of great economical and ecological importance. Entire-blanket dragging is the most widely used method to sample free-living ixodid ticks. However, this technique is not equally efficient in different vegetation types. The height and structure of the vegetation under study will not only determine the likelihood of a tick-blanket contact, but will also determine the rate of dislodgement. The purpose of this study was therefore to determine whether the alternative strip-blanket is more effectively in picking up ticks than the standard entire-blanket. Sampling was carried out in four forest understory vegetation types that differed in height and structure on five collection dates between April and September 2008. A total of 8,068 Ixodes ricinus ticks was collected (778 adults, 1,920 nymphs, and 5,370 larvae). The highest numbers of ticks were collected along the forest trails, where the dominant vegetation consisted of short grasses. The lowest numbers of ticks were collected in bracken-fern-dominated sites, where the vegetation seriously hampered tick sampling. Surprisingly, in each vegetation type, significantly more nymphs and adults were collected using the entire-blanket. However, the strip-blanket was more effectively in collecting larvae, especially in dense and tall vegetation.

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The authors thank Marijn Tormans, Kris Ceunen, Karen Wuyts, and Miguel Lyssens-Danneboom for assistance with fieldwork. We are also grateful to Natuurpunt vzw for the permission to work in the nature reserve. This research was funded by IWT-Flanders, the Institute for the Promotion of Innovation by Science and Technology in Flanders.

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Correspondence to Wesley Tack.

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Tack, W., Madder, M., De Frenne, P. et al. The effects of sampling method and vegetation type on the estimated abundance of Ixodes ricinus ticks in forests. Exp Appl Acarol 54, 285–292 (2011).

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