Host finding of the pigeon tick Argas reflexus

Med Vet Entomol. 2016 Jun;30(2):193-9. doi: 10.1111/mve.12165. Epub 2016 Mar 9.


The medically and veterinary important feral pigeon tick Argas reflexus (Ixodida: Argasidae) Fabricius usually feeds on pigeons, but if its natural hosts are not available, it also enters dwellings to bite humans that can possibly react with severe allergic reactions. Argas reflexus is ecologically extremely successful as a result of some outstanding morphological, physiological, and ethological features. Yet, it is still unknown how the pigeon tick finds its hosts. Here, different host stimuli such as living nestlings as well as begging calls, body heat, smell, host breath and tick faeces, were tested under controlled laboratory conditions. Of all stimuli tested, only heat played a role in host-finding. The heat stimulus was then tested under natural conditions within a pigeon loft. The results showed that A. reflexus is able to find a host over short distances of only a few centimetres. Furthermore, it finds its host by random movements and recognizes a host only right before direct contact is made. The findings are useful for the control of A. reflexus in infested apartments, both to diagnose an infestation and to perform a success monitoring after disinfestation.

Keywords: Columba livia; body heat; ectoparasite; feral pigeon; host cues; host detection; host stimuli.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Argas / growth & development
  • Argas / physiology*
  • Bird Diseases / parasitology*
  • Columbidae*
  • Host-Seeking Behavior*
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Larva / physiology
  • Tick Infestations / parasitology
  • Tick Infestations / veterinary*