Tick Sampling, an update

As I near the end of our sampling season, I can’t say honestly that I’m dreading it being over.  It’s been a difficult summer but we’ve found a lot of interesting things.

We recently beat our record number of ticks collected in a single 3 meter portion of the transect, collecting 124 ticks: 123 lone star nymphs, and 1 adult lone star tick.  We found about 70 ticks along the next 3 meters, but after that, the number plummeted and we only found a few ticks along the remaining 3m portions.  The 6 meter stretch that had the incredible numbers of ticks was covered in small pine trees where the nymph ticks gathered in droves.  (The number found on the canvas drag flag was nearly matched the numbers found on our pants and boots.  Unpleasant, needless to say.)

However, apart from this transect where we found a large number of ticks (levels more consistent with those found last summer), we’ve continued to find consistently fewer ticks this summer than last, despite the fact that we are now sampling in the same month.  One reason for this is the large amount of rain that we’ve had.  When the ground is wet, we tend to find many fewer ticks (and deer pellets, which we are also recording).  This is frustrating, because the weather is a variable that affects the number of ticks that we collect, but that we don’t incorporate into the model, so there is the potential for the spatial model to be less accurate.

One way to combat this is to double-sample sites, to get a better idea of how many ticks are actually in a given area.  We plan to do this for a subset of sites (there isn’t time to re-sample every single one of the over 100 sites that we’ve visited this summer), specifically those in the College Woods and along the Colonial Parkway.


  1. scgilliand says:

    Your field work certainly sounds difficult. I don’t know that I would enjoy doing what you do, but it definitely seems like an important project. I imagine ticks have a great effect on humans, deer, and other organisms in this area. It really has been a rainy summer, and it’s so hard to model something as erratic as rain. But I don’t think there’s supposed to be too much precipitation this week, so hopefully you’ll have better luck!

  2. What method was used to collect ticks when a large number of them were found on the flag, such as the 124 ticks discussed in your post?