Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: December 12, 2010
Publication Date: N/A
Though largely eradicated from the U.S. for the past half century, the reemergence of populations of southern cattle tick (Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus) is of major concern to the U.S. cattle industry. Southern cattle ticks are vectors of blood parasites that cause a lethal cattle disease, estimated to cost the cattle industry billions of dollars per year in losses and control efforts. Given that the key management area of Rhipicephalus ticks in south Texas overlap with the densest infestations of invasive, non-native giant reed (Arundo donax L.) in the U.S., we determine whether giant reed invasions are positively or negatively associated with survival of ticks. We look at tick survivorship and reproduction in three common riparian habitats in south Texas: native forests, stands of giant reed, and pastures of exotic buffelgrass. Average high temperatures across the habitats predicted both the proportion of egg laying ticks (b=-15.81, t(8)=25.74, p < .001) and size of egg masses (b=-0.00916, t(8)=9.41, p < 0.001). The proportion of ticks that laid eggs and resulting mass were correlated, suggesting that in areas with favorable climates (giant reed stands and native forests) a greater percentage of ticks lay eggs and the resulting egg masses are larger. However, results from concurrent studies using pitfall traps revealed the relatively high abundance of potential ground dwelling predators (ants and spiders) and overall higher diversity of insects in native forests when compared to giant reed stands and bufflegrass pastures. Ultimately, these results suggests that stands of giant reed are a highly suitable refuge for cattle fever ticks given the favorable climate conditions and a relative paucity of potential tick predators.