Experimental & Applied Acarology

, Volume 21, Issue 12, pp 731–746 | Cite as

Bodies of liquid water as a source of water gain for Ixodes ricinus ticks (Acari: Ixodidae)

  • Olaf Kahl
  • Isabel Alidousti


It is well established that free-living unfed ticks can compensate for their inevitable body water losses by active water vapour absorption in periods of ambient relative humidity (RH) of greater than 75-90%. Whilst many species of terrestrial arthropods are known to be capable of locating liquid water and drinking when in need, the existing knowledge concerning the ecological significance of bulk water for rehydration in ticks is scarce. In the present laboratory study batches of unfed Ixodes ricinus (larvae, nymphs, and adults) in varying states of (de)hydration were supplied with tapwater either as droplets for 45 min in a Petri dish or in a small trough for 24 h. The body mass of each tick was gravimetrically determined before and after exposure. Though fully hydrated ticks were not usually attracted to liquid water, the response became increasingly positive with a growing body water deficit (p > 0.05). No tick was ever found with its mouthparts inserted into the water, nor had any tick residues of orange G in its alimentary tract when supplied with orange G-coloured water. Linear regression analysis demonstrated that water intake took place in a regulated manner in adult ticks, i.e. the more severely the ticks had been dehydrated the more net water they subsequently gained (p > 0.01). The maximum uptake rates were <20% of the original body mass per day. These findings indicate that unfed I. ricinus do not drink liquid water but are well able to use the high RH in the immediate vicinity of bulk water to actively take up vapour.

Ticks Ixodes ricinus liquid water active water vapour absorption water balance 


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Copyright information

© Chapman and Hall 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Olaf Kahl
    • 1
  • Isabel Alidousti
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Zoology, Applied Zoology/Animal EcologyFree University of BerlinBerlinGermany

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