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The southern cattle fever tick, Rhipicephalus microplus, is a livestock pest worldwide in tropical and subtropical climates, including South Texas, and can vector Babesia spp., the causal agents of bovine babesiosis. Artificial rearing methods for R. microplus are needed, especially for rearing specialist tick parasitoids that are under evaluation for classical biological control. In this study, we tested the efficiency of artificial feeding of R. microplus larvae, nymphs, and adults on a siliconized substrate (goldbeater’s membrane, lens paper, or Hemotek), or on nonsiliconized goldbeater’s membrane or Hemotek. Other variables tested were a warm water bath, incubator, positioning blood above or below ticks, using various attractants to stimulate attachment to membrane, incubating with or without 5% CO2, changing static blood once a day versus peristaltic pumping of blood, and using heparinized versus defibrinated blood. Peristaltic pumping of blood across the membrane inside the incubator significantly increased larval attachment. We found that up to 25% percent of these life stages would attach to the siliconized goldbeater’s membrane and feed, although none molted or completed their entire life cycle. A red color observable in the “fed” ticks’ legs seemed to indicate that bovine hemoglobin had penetrated the gut and entered the hemolymph of the ticks. We were successful rearing unfed nymphs to the engorged stage, which is the pre-requisite for rearing Ixoidiphagus tick parasitoids. Suggestions for future experimentation for rearing R. microplus on artificial membranes are discussed.

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Subtropical Agriculture and Environments



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