Research Article

The host relationships of Ixodes hexagonus Leach in Britain

D. R. Arthura1

a1 Department of Zoology, King's College, University of London

On the available data from south Wales and southeast England, the tick Ixodes hexagonus Leach has spring and autumn peaks of activity on hedgehogs, stoats and weasels.

One or more stages of this tick have been recorded on fifteen mammalian hosts. All stages have been collected from hedgehogs, stoats, foxes, polecats and ferrets. The weasel is probably the smallest habitual host. No specimens of I. hexagonus have been found on birds.

Man is an ‘accidental’ host and records of this tick on man in the London area are given. From the present information it seems that ill-effects following the bite of this parasite are rare. In built-up areas the probable sources of infestation are dogs, cats and hedgehogs. Air-raid shelters and similar constructions which have harboured these hosts at one time or another may provide a centre of infestation of man. Our observations indicate that the number of ticks in most hedgehogs' nests is not large. Nothing is known of the tick population in the habitats of other hosts. It is suggested tentatively that the ticks may drop off hedgehogs away from the nest and that after further development (i.e. hatching of eggs and metamorphoses of later stages) they are picked up by such animals as foxes, stoats, weasels.

The records of this tick in Britain are summarized and they indicate that I. hexagonus is a southern species.

(Received December 19 1952)