Modeling the influence of Peromyscus leucopus body mass, sex, and habitat on immature Dermacentor variabilis burden



Immature (larvae and nymph) tick burden on rodents is an important determinant of adult tick population size and understanding infectious disease dynamics. The objective of this research was to build a descriptive model for immature Dermacentor variabilis burden on Peromyscus leucopus. Mice were live-trapped on two permanent grids in an old field and an early successional forest every other month between April and October, 2006–2009. Negative binomial regression was used to examine the association between immature D. variabilis burden and the host related variables of host habitat, body mass, and/or sex. The model containing all three variables had the lowest Akaike's Information Criterion (AIC), corrected AIC (AICc), and greatest AICc weight. Immature D. variabilis burden was positively associated with mice with higher body mass, male mice, and those captured in the field habitat. These data are consistent with studies from other tick-rodent systems and suggest that single factor models do not describe host burden. Variables other than those that are related to the host may also be important in describing the tick burden on rodents. The next step is to examine variables that affect tick development rate and questing behavior.