Hitching a Ride

Burying Beetle

American Burying Beetle Photo: Doug Blacklund

Parasites are often adapted for clinging to a host. These features sometimes reduce mobility because features that might improve mobility could make the parasite easier to dislodge. Parasites need to move from one host to another when dispersing after reproduction or in instances when a host dies. Parasites with limited mobility need creative ways to locate hosts. Ixodes ricinus, a common tick species in Europe can feed on a variety of host vertebrates. When an animal dies, necrophilous beetles will arrive at a carcass to feed or lay eggs. A study of tick movement in Spain* discovered that I. ricinus can hitch rides on beetles. The ticks were found attached to the elytra of the heath dumble dor beetle Trypocopris pyrenaeus , the burying beetle, Nicrophorus vespilloides and the dung beetle, Anoplotrupes stercorosus. These beetles all fly to the animals themselves or the areas the animals inhabit. For the tick, hitching a ride beats walking.

*Saloña-Bordas, Marta; Bahillo de la Puebla, Pablo; Díaz Martín, Beatriz; Sumner, Jason & Perotti, M.Alejandra. 2015. Ixodes ricinus (Ixodidae), an occasional phoront on necrophagous and coprophagous beetles in Europe. Experimental and Applied Acarology. 65:243-248.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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