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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Validating a common tick survey method: cloth-dragging and line transects

Kjellander, Pia L.; Aronsson, Malin; Bergvall, Ulrika A.; Carrasco, Josep L.; Christensson, Madeleine; Lindgren, Per-Eric; Akesson, Mikael; Kjellander, Petter


Cloth-dragging is the most widely-used method for collecting and counting ticks, but there are few studies of its reliability. By using cloth-dragging, we applied a replicated line transects survey method, in two areas in Sweden with different Ixodes ricinus tick-densities (low at Grimso and high at Bogesund) to evaluate developmental stage specific repeatability, agreement and precision in estimates of tick abundance. 'Repeatability' was expressed as the Intraclass Correlation Coefficient (ICC), 'agreement' with the Total Deviation Index (TDI) and 'precision' by the coefficient of variation (CV) for a given dragging distance. Repeatability (ICC) and agreement (TDI) were higher for the most abundant instar (nymphs) and in the area of higher abundance. At Bogesund tick counts were higher than at Grimso and so also repeatability, with fair to substantial ICC estimates between 0.22 and 0.75, and TDI ranged between 1 and 44.5 counts of difference (thus high to moderate agreement). At Grimso, ICC was poor to moderate and ranged between 0 and 0.59, whereas TDI remained low with estimates lower or equal to 1 count (thus high agreement). Despite a 100-fold lower abundance at Grimso, the same level of precision for nymphs could be achieved with a 70% increase of dragging effort. We conclude that the cloth-dragging technique is useful for surveying ticks' and primarily to estimate abundance of the nymphal stage, whereas it rarely will be recommended for larvae and adults.


Ixodes; Repeatability; Tick; Dragging; Total deviation index; Validation

Published in

Experimental and Applied Acarology
2021, Volume: 83, number: 1, pages: 131-146
Publisher: SPRINGER