Occurrence and distribution in Rhode Island of Hunterellus hookeri (Hymenoptera: Encyrtidae), a wasp parasitoid of Ixodes dammini.

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The wasp Hunterellus hookeri Howard parasitizes several species of ixodid ticks including Ixodes dammini Spielman, Clifford, Piesman & Corwin, the vector of Lyme disease spirochetes, Borrelia burgdorferi, in the northeastern United States. We detected the occurrence and evaluated the distribution of this wasp parasitoid in populations of I. dammini in Rhode Island. There has been no intentional introduction of a tick parasitoid recorded anywhere in Rhode Island; yet, we found this wasp at one of the six study sites (Prudence Island), where it parasitized 21 (n = 243) and 17% (n = 284) of nymphal I. dammini collected during 1988 and 1989, respectively. The proportion of nymphs parasitized was greatest during May (46%) and was less in June (18%), July (18%), and August (11%). In Rhode Island, the wasp was only found parasitizing ticks at the site with the highest (by a factor of 2) tick population, confirming similar observations in Massachusetts and New York. It is suggested that establishment as well as the distribution of H. hookeri depends upon a super abundant deer tick population. The usefulness of this parasitoid as a biological control agent is yet unknown.

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Journal of medical entomology