Ixodes ricinus male tick feeding and detaching


Male Ixodes ricinus ticks feed a small amounts of blood per time. They are highly mobile and are thought to move between host animals in search of females to mate with. On every host the male tick can feed and can get infected but also transmit pathogens.

Male ticks lack the engorging capacity that females have. Female I. ricinus easily feed for 7 days or more to reach repleation. Males on the other hand just feed a very short time period. As mentioned, male ticks can transmit diseases and their short feeding times further emphasize the need of quickly checking your body after having spend time out in nature. Prevention and early tick removal are highly important to reduce the chance of getting infected.

In this video, we are feeding I. ricinus ticks artificially using a silicone membrane. After the male tick was done feeding, it detached himself by turning in circles. Much like how to remove a screw. Female ticks do not display this movement prior to detaching. Female I. ricinus, especially fully engorged, are less mobile and heavily rely on the cement they produce to stay attached to their hosts. In a study published in 2016 (10.1016/j.ttbdis.2016.04.006) by Rebekah Bullard et al., they mention that a few microliters of tick saliva can dissolve the cement rapidly.

Using artificial feeding we can easier monitor tick-borne pathogen transmission. For example, we can investigate how long ticks need to feed before a pathogen is transmitted.