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Cattle and rainfall affect tick abundance in central Kenya


East Africa is a global hot spot for the diversity of ixodid ticks. As ectoparasites and as vectors of pathogens, ticks negatively affect the well-being of humans, livestock and wildlife. To prevent tick infestations, livestock owners and managers typically treat livestock with acaricides that kill ticks when they attempt to feed on livestock hosts. Because of the costs of preventing and mitigating tick parasitism, predicting where and when ticks will be abundant is an important challenge in this region. We used a 7-year monthly record of tick abundance on large experimental plots to assess the effects of rainfall, wildlife and cattle on larvae, nymphs and adults of two common tick species, Rhipicephalus pulchellus and Rhipicephalus praetextatus. Nymphal and adult ticks were more abundant when there had been high cumulative rainfall in the prior months. They were less abundant when cattle were present than when only large wild mammals were. Larval abundance was not affected by the presence of cattle, and larvae did not appear to be sensitive to rainfall in prior months, though they were less abundant in our surveys when rainfall was high in the sampling month. The challenges of managing ticks in this region are being exacerbated rapidly by changes in rainfall patterns wrought by climate change, and by overall increases in livestock, making efforts to predict the impacts of these drivers all the more pressing.

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*Corresponding author: Program in Biology, Bard College, PO Box 5000, Annandale, NY 12504, USA. E-mail:
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