Tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus is one of the most important bloodsucking ecto-parasitic pests of both domestic and wild animals including cattle, deer, donkeys, horses, goats, pigs and sheep but cattle are generally considered as major hosts for this tick and therefore they are named as cattle ticks. These ticks also called as blue ticks, hard ticks or southern cattle ticks that have four pairs of legs and are related spiders. Unlike other tick species, Rhipicephalus microplus require only one host to complete its life cycle.
The life cycle of cattle tick, Rhipicephalus microplus consists of egg, larva, nymph and adult stages. Of these stages, larvae, nymphs and adults are parasitic to host animals. The life cycle of this tick begins when engorged females drop off the host on the ground and lay eggs on the soil surface under thatch/litter. The eggs hatch into small larvae that climb up grass stems and gather at the tip of leaves where they remain until they attach to passing by host animals. Once they attach to host, they crawl to their feeding site where they start feeding on host blood. While feeding on the host blood, tick larvae successively molt into nymphs and then into adults. Under optimal environmental conditions, this process of feeding and successive molting on the host’s body takes generally about 20 -25 days to develop into engorged females. The engorged females then drop off the host on the ground where they lay eggs and die, then eggs hatch into larvae and life cycle continues. Based on the optimal environmental conditions, Rhipicephalus microplus ticks can complete 5 generations within a year.
Cattle ticks Rhipicephalus microplus can cause damage to cattle by directly feeding on the blood and inderctly by transmitting viruses or protozoa parasites. In case of direct damage, three parasitic stages of ticks including larvae, nymphs and adults can suck blood from host cows and cause anaemia, hides, irritation, stress, weakness, decreased production and even death in tick infested cattle and other host animals. In addition, Rhipicephalus microplus ticks are vectors of some protozoa parasites including Babesia bigemina and Babesia bovis that are responsible in causing a disease in cows called “cattle fever”.
As Rhipicephalus microplus ticks themselves and diseases transmitted by them can cause a significant economic loss to cattle and dairy industry, their management is essential. Chemical acaricides may have been effective in controlling ticks but their use is restricted due to their detrimental effects on the animal health and environment. Natural predators including birds, insects (ants and wasps), rodents may be helpful to suppress the populations of ticks but they cannot eliminate entire populations of tick, Rhipicephalus microplus. Other natural organisms including beneficial entomopathogenic fungi and nematodes have a potential to use as environmentally safe biological control agent to control tick, Rhipicephalus microplus.
de Carvalho, L.B., Furlong, J., Prata, M.C.D., dos Reis, E.S., Batista, E.S.D., Faza, A.P. and Leite R.C. 2010. Evaluation in vitro of the infection times of engorged females of Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus by the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema glaseri CCA strain. Ciencia Rural. 40: 939-943.
Freitas-Ribeiro G.M., Furlong, J., Vasconcelos, V.O., Dolinski, C. and Loures-Ribeiro, A. 2005. Analysis of biological parameters of Boophilus microplus Canestrini, 1887 exposed to entomopathogenic nematodes Steinernema carpocapsae Santa Rosa and all strains (Steinernema: Rhabditida). Brazilian Archives of Biology and Technology. 48: 911-919.
Frazzon, A.P.G., Da Silva Vaz Junior, I., Masuda, A., Schrank, A. and Vainstein, M.H. 2000. In vitro assessment of Metarhizium anisopliae isolates to control the cattle tick Boophilus microplus. Veterinary Parasitology 94: 117–125.
Grewal P.S., Ehlers, R-U, Shapiro-Ilan D.I. 2005. Nematodes as Biocontrol Agents. CABI, New York, NY.
Kocan, K.M., Pidherney, M.S., Blouin, E.F., Claypool, P.L., Samish, M. and Glazer, I. 1998. Interaction of entomopathogenic nematodes (Steinernematidae) with selected species of ixodid ticks (Acari: Ixodidae). Journal of Medical Entomology. 35: 514-520.
Leemon, D.M., Turner, L.B. and Jonsson, N.N. 2008. Pen studies on the control of cattle tick (Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus) with Metarhizium anisopliae (Sorokin). Veterinary Parasitology 156: 248-260.
Monteiro, C.M.O., Araujo, L.X., Matos, R.S., Golo, P.D., Angelo, I.C., Perinotto, W.M.D., Rodrigues, C.A.C., Furlong, J., Bittencourt, V.R.E.P. and Prata, M.C.A. 2013. Association between entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi for control of Rhipicephalus microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitology Research 112: 3645-3651.
Monteiro, C.M.D., Prata, M.C.D., Furlong, J., Faza, A.P., Mendes, A.S., Andalo, V. and Moino, A.. 2010. Heterorhabditis amazonensis (Rhabditidae: Heterorhabditidae), strain RSC-5, for biological control of the cattle tick Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitology Research. 106: 821-826.
Monteiro, C.M., Prata, M.C., Faza, A., Batista, E.S., Dolinski, C. and Furlong, J. 2012. Heterorhabditis bacteriophora (Rhabditida: Heterorhabditidae) HP88 for biological control of Rhipicephalus microplus (Acari: Ixodidae): the effect of different exposure times of engorged females to the nematodes. Veterinary Parasitololgy 185: 364-67.
Monteiro, C.M.O., Araujo, L.X., Gomes, G.A., Senra, T.O.S., Calmon, F., Daemon, E., de Carvalho, M.G., Bittencourt, V.R.E.P., Furlong, J. and Prata, M.C.D. 2014. Entomopathogenic nematodes associated with essential oil of Lippia sidoides for control of Rhipicephalus microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitology Research 113: 189-195.
Paião, J.C.V., Monteiro, A.C. and Kronka, S.N. 2001. Susceptibility of the cattle tick Boophilus microplus (Acari: Ixodidae) to isolates of the fungus Beauveria bassiana. World Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology 27: 245-251.
Reis-Menini, C.M.R., Prata, M.C.A., Furlong, J. and Silva, E.R. 2008. Compatibility between the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema glaseri (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) and an acaricide in the control of RhipicephalusBoophilus) microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitology Research. 103: 1391-1396.
Vasconcelos, V.O., Furlong, J., Freitas, G.M., Dolinski, C., Aguillera, M.M., Rodrigues, R.C.D. and Prata, M. 2004. Steinernema glaseri Santa Rosa strain (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) and Heterorhabditis bacteriophora CCA Strain (Rhabditida: Heterorhabditidae) as biological control agents of Boophilus microplus (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitology Research 94: 201-206.