New tick species in Belgian nestboxes


Ixodes arboricola, juveniles and adults

Translated from Antwerp University in Belgium:

Ticks in nest boxes

Friday, May 4, 2012

In Belgium and the Netherlands, 15 indigenous tick species live. Some of them suck blood from various animals (and humans), but most limit themselves to one specific species or species group (eg hedgehogs, sand martins, or bats). Of these specialized ticks, Ixodes arboricola is probably the least known. This species infects mainly birds that breed and sleep in tree cavities and nest boxes, but there is still little known about its ecology and distribution and its role in the spread of diseases in birds and humans.

For several years, the research group Evolutionary Ecology at the University of Antwerp have studied parasites of birds. Currently, they do research on the ecological interactions between ticks (Ixodidae) and tree cavity nesting birds. In this project, including the genetic variation of the ticks in relation to their hosts, the spatial distribution and genetic variation is studied on the scale of Belgium and the Netherlands. In addition, it will look at the germs which may be present in those ticks.

Five years ago, during this research in forest fragments near Antwerp (Peerdsbos in Brasschaat and Boshoek in Boechout-Lier) and later in the Park de Renesse in Oostmalle, Ixodes arboricola was found, a species which may be numerous elsewhere in Europe, but which as far as we know had never been documented in Belgium. The species does not have a Dutch name yet.

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