Behaviour 2019
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Pathogen Prevalence and Individual Variation in Tick Host-Seeking Behavior
Elise A. Richardson, David J. Buttrick, Brittney Jabot, Caitlin E. Taylor, Estelle Martin, Carl N. Keiser. University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, United States

Ticks vector a greater variety of pathogens than any other arthropod group making them a significant threat to the public, companion animals, and wildlife. Surveying areas that are commonly used for recreation and wildlife habitats for the presence of ticks and the pathogens that they carry is essential to the prevention of tick-borne diseases. Tick behavior could also be playing an active role in transmission dynamics. We set out to study the host seeking behavior of Amblyomma americanum, the lone star tick at the population level and at the individual level by collecting ticks in public parks in Gainesville, Florida and conducting behavioral assays on host-seeking behavior (questing). A subset of the collected ticks were assayed for 3 consecutive days to determine if ticks displayed repeatable, individual-level differences in questing behavior. Afterward, ticks were screened for two human pathogens, Rickettsia spp. and Ehrlichia spp. Here we will report our survey findings and describe individual-level and population-level variation in tick host-seeking behaviors.