"So, naturalists observe, a flea has smaller fleas that on him prey; and these have smaller still to bite ’em; and so proceed ad infinitum."
- Jonathan Swift

May 1, 2010

May 1 - Ambylomma variegatum

Yesterday you saw the bacteria that are responsible for Q fever – Coxiella burnetii and learned that they can be transmitted by ticks. This tick, Ambylomma variegatum, is one of those ticks – and what a handsome tick that it is (well, at least the males)! These ticks are present in sub-Saharan Africa, but they have been introduced to several islands in the Caribbean as well. They have a wide range of hosts that they take bloodmeals from – as larvae and nymphs they feed on birds, reptiles, sheep or goats and as adults they like cattle, horses, camels, and some antelope as well. These ticks vector not only Q fever but also heartwater and African tick-bite fever (we’ll meet these later), and on top of that, they also have a really nasty bite due to their very long mouthparts. These bites can be painful and sometimes are also sources for secondary infections of both bacteria and screwworms. So, they might be good-looking, but they’re pretty nasty little arachnids.

Photo of male (left) and female (right) A. variegatum ticks, from this recent paper on Q fever in Senegal.


  1. Ticks are such common hosts for parasites that infect humans and other mammals. Are there any parasites that consume ticks? Living in Lyme disease central (Minnesota), I'd like to know what THEY have to worry about.

  2. Got a problem on my ranch. Kind of ticks found appear to be in the rhipicephalus spp. However, treatments of the animals with tick fever with imizol, phenylbutazone and tetracycline has shown to very ineffective. Previously this combination was excellent.

  3. Please note the sign we have posted on the side bar:

    "We do not give any medical or veterinary advice. If you think you or your pets have a parasite, please seek the appropriate care you need from your own doctor or veterinarian."

    Thank you.