Immunocompetence, the general capacity of an individual host to mount an immune response against pathogens, is commonly assessed by the response to a challenge of the immune system by injection of phytohaemagglutinin (PHA). The response to PHA is commonly considered a reliable estimate of the T-cell mediated immune response. We investigated the temporal pattern of the PHA response in 10 rodent species from the Negev desert, Israel. We hypothesized that the temporal dynamics of the PHA response would differ among species with different natural patterns of flea parasitism. We injected PHA subcutaneously in the footpad of each rodent and measured its PHA response 6, 24 and 48 h after injection. Rodent species showed two types of PHA response. One type was rapid and characteristic of rodents that had either species-poor flea assemblages, or that are rarely attacked by fleas. This response peaked approximately 6 h after PHA injection. The second type of response was delayed and was typical of rodents that have either species-rich flea assemblages or high abundance and prevalence of fleas or both. Their response to PHA peaked 24 h after injection. Furthermore, rodents that responded promptly had a lower maximum response than rodents with a delayed response. Our results suggest the occurrence of a trade-off between intensity and latency of the PHA response and, therefore, the necessity to account for the relationship between maximum PHA response and time after injection when making interspecific comparisons of immunocompetence.