Parasites & Vectors (Nov 2020)

First records of Dermacentor albipictus larvae collected by flagging in Yukon, Canada

  • Emily S. Chenery,
  • N. Jane Harms,
  • Nicholas E. Mandrak,
  • Péter K. Molnár

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 13, no. 1
pp. 1 – 7


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Abstract Background The winter tick (Dermacentor albipictus) has garnered significant attention throughout North America for its impact on wildlife health, and especially for moose (Alces alces), where high tick burdens may result in host hair loss, anemia, and can prove fatal. The environmental transmission of D. albipictus larvae to a host is a critical event that has direct impact on infestation success, yet in-field observations of this life stage are lacking. In Yukon, Canada, D. albipictus had previously been found on hosts, but its larval life stage had not been detected in the field, despite previous sampling attempts. Methods We sampled for D. albipictus larvae using traditional flagging methods in Ibex Valley and Braeburn, Yukon. Sites were sampled repeatedly for D. albipictus larvae by flagging from late August to end of October in 2018 and late August to end of November 2019. Results Larvae of D. albipictus were collected throughout Ibex Valley, at approximate densities ranging from 0.04 to 4236 larvae/100 m2. Larvae were present primarily on grassy vegetation on south-facing slopes in the Ibex Valley region and in Braeburn. Highest average larval numbers suggest peak questing activity was towards the end of September and beginning of October, as elsewhere in North America. Conclusions To the best of our knowledge, we report the first successful collection of the off-host, larval life stage of D. albipictus by flagging, north of 60° latitude in Yukon, Canada. These new observations provide critical information on the spatial distribution of the host-seeking life stage of D. albipictus and confirm that this species is completing its whole life cycle in southern Yukon. Understanding the environmental conditions where larvae spend their vulnerable period off-host in this northern location can inform both management strategies and projections of future range expansion which may occur with a changing climate.