Environmental Drivers of Immature Ixodes scapularis in Minnesota’s Metro Area

Jacob Cassens, Janet Jarnefeld, Jesse D. Berman, Jonathan D. Oliver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research on the public health significance of Ixodes scapularis ticks in the Midwest seldom focuses on extreme weather conditions that can modulate their population dynamics and ability to transmit pathogenic organisms. In this study, we assessed whether the distributional abundance of I. scapularis immatures is associated with current and time-lagged climatic determinants either directly or indirectly. We analyzed a 20-year longitudinal small mammal live-trapping dataset within a seven-county metropolitan area in Minnesota (1998–2016) using yearly tick counts at each site to assess whether inter- and intra-annual variation in immature I. scapularis counts is associated with climate and land-use conditions. We found that (1) immature I. scapularis ticks infesting mammals expanded southwesterly over the study period, (2) eastern chipmunks, Tamias striatus, supplied a substantial proportion of nymphal blood meals, (3) a suite of climatological variables are demonstrably associated with I. scapularis presence, and abundance across sites, most notably summer vapor pressure deficit, and (4) immature I. scapularis display an affinity for deciduous forests in metro areas. Our results suggest that climatic and land-type conditions may impact host-seeking I. scapularis ticks through numerous mechanistic avenues. These findings extend our understanding of the abiotic factors supporting I. scapularis populations in metro areas of the upper Midwest with strong implications for discerning future tick-borne pathogen risk.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)273-285
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, EcoHealth Alliance.


  • Blacklegged
  • Climate
  • Environment
  • Ixodes scapularis
  • Minnesota
  • Upper-Midwest

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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