Modelling the effect of temperature variation on the seasonal dynamics of Ixodes ricinus tick populations

Int J Parasitol. 2011 Apr;41(5):513-22. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2010.12.012. Epub 2011 Feb 2.


Seasonal variation in temperature is known to drive annual patterns of tick activity and can influence the dynamics of tick-borne diseases. An age-structured model of the dynamics of Ixodes ricinus populations was developed to explore how changes in average temperature and different levels of temperature variability affect seasonal patterns of tick activity and the transmission of tick-borne diseases. The model produced seasonal patterns of tick emergence that are consistent with those observed throughout Great Britain. Varying average temperature across a continuous spectrum produced a systematic pattern in the times of peak emergence of questing ticks which depends on cumulative temperature over the year. Examination of the effects of between-year stochastic temperature variation on this pattern indicated that peak emergence times are more strongly affected by temperature stochasticity at certain levels of average temperature. Finally the model was extended to give a simple representation of the dynamics of a tick-borne disease. A threshold level of annual cumulative temperature was identified at which disease persistence is sensitive to stochastic temperature variation. In conclusion, the effect of changing patterns of temperature variation on the dynamics of I. ricinus ticks and the diseases they transmit may depend on the cumulative temperature over the year and will therefore vary across different locations. The results also indicate that diapause mechanisms have an important influence on seasonal patterns of tick activity and require further study.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ecosystem
  • Ixodes / growth & development
  • Ixodes / physiology*
  • Models, Biological
  • Seasons
  • Temperature