Patterns of deer ked (Diptera: Hippoboscidae) and tick (Ixodida: Ixodidae) infestation on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the eastern United States

Karen C. Poh, Jesse R. Evans, Michael J. Skvarla, Cody M. Kent, Pia U. Olafson, Graham J. Hickling, Jennifer M. Mullinax, Erika T. Machtinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) host numerous ectoparasitic species in the eastern USA, most notably various species of ticks and two species of deer keds. Several pathogens transmitted by ticks to humans and other animal hosts have also been found in deer keds. Little is known about the acquisition and potential for transmission of these pathogens by deer keds; however, tick-deer ked co-feeding transmission is one possible scenario. On-host localization of ticks and deer keds on white-tailed deer was evaluated across several geographical regions of the eastern US to define tick-deer ked spatial relationships on host deer, which may impact the vector-borne disease ecology of these ectoparasites. Methods: Ticks and deer keds were collected from hunter-harvested white-tailed deer from six states in the eastern US. Each deer was divided into three body sections, and each section was checked for 4 person-minutes. Differences in ectoparasite counts across body sections and/or states were evaluated using a Bayesian generalized mixed model. Results: A total of 168 white-tailed deer were inspected for ticks and deer keds across the study sites. Ticks (n = 1636) were collected from all surveyed states, with Ixodes scapularis (n = 1427) being the predominant species. Counts of I. scapularis from the head and front sections were greater than from the rear section. Neotropical deer keds (Lipoptena mazamae) from Alabama and Tennessee (n = 247) were more often found on the rear body section. European deer keds from Pennsylvania (all Lipoptena cervi, n = 314) were found on all body sections of deer. Conclusions: The distributions of ticks and deer keds on white-tailed deer were significantly different from each other, providing the first evidence of possible on-host niche partitioning of ticks and two geographically distinct deer ked species (L. cervi in the northeast and L. mazamae in the southeast). These differences in spatial distributions may have implications for acquisition and/or transmission of vector-borne pathogens and therefore warrant further study over a wider geographic range and longer time frame. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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