Lack of spatial autocorrelation in fine-scale distributions of Ixodes scapularis (Acari: Ixodidae)

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Spatial patterns of Ixodes scapularis Say, the vector of the Lyme disease agent, have been examined at various geographic scales, demonstrating that distributions of these ticks are spatially autocorrelated at both national and state scales. We tested the hypothesis that distributions of nymphal I. scapularis ticks at the fine scale of an endemic community also are spatially autocorrelated. Nymphal tick densities were determined by collecting ticks from 51 and 47 wooded residential properties in a southern Rhode Island town in 2002 and 2003, respectively. The average tick density at residences during 2002 was 51.17 (± 46.04) nymphs per hour, with a range of 3-297 and median of 40.82. In 2003, the average tick density was 44.48 (± 38.31) nymphs per hour, with a range of 3-153 and median of 36. Semivariance analysis revealed no spatial autocorrelation in tick densities between residences, likely due to the high variability of tick distributions at this scale. Further analysis of drag-sampling data at individual residences by using Lloyd's patchiness index (m*/m) demonstrated a patchy distribution of nymphs. High variability of nymphal I. scapularis densities may greatly affect predicting spatial patterns of ticks at a fine scale.

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Journal of Medical Entomology