Wood ticks, Ixodes ricinus L., serve as vectors for various pathogens and are ubiquitous throughout Central Europe. Survival and development of I. ricinus depend on biotic and abiotic factors. We examined whether relative humidity (RH), air (T a ) and soil temperatures (T s ), or snow depth during November through February affect the questing activity of ticks during their subsequent season of activity. We related the number of host-seeking nymphs to meteorological parameters measured in close proximity at minutely intervals over the period of 6 years (2010-2015) in an urban park in Berlin. We defined thresholds at which associations appeared strongest. Although the annual variations in RH, T a , and snow depth were typical of the mid-latitudes, the questing activity of nymphs during their first peak of activity (March through July) varied among the 6 years more than threefold. The accumulated hours of RH below 77% in 2 m height during November through February affected the questing activity of nymphs during the following activity peak. In contrast to T a , accumulated hours of T s below -1 °C in 0.02 m depth or below -4 °C in 0.05 m depth during the preceding period significantly influenced the average number of nymphs questing during spring. Our observations suggest that RH, T s , and snow cover during the preceding months affect the questing activity of nymphal I. ricinus during their first peak of activity. Snow cover serves as an insulator between the atmosphere and soil, which not only stabilizes T s but also appears to protect ticks from exposure to frost and frequent temperature shifts.
International Journal of Biometeorology, 2017, Vol 61, Issue 10, p. 1787-1795