In 2015 a long-term, nationwide tick and tick-borne pathogen (TBP) monitoring project was started by the Finnish Tick Project and the Finnish Research Station network (RESTAT), with the goal of producing temporally and geographically extensive data regarding exophilic ticks in Finland. In the current study, we present results from the first four years of this collaboration.
Ticks were collected by cloth dragging from 11 research stations across Finland in May–September 2015–2018 (2012–2018 in Seili). Collected ticks were screened for twelve different pathogens by qPCR: Borrelia afzelii, Borrelia garinii, Borrelia valaisiana, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto, Borrelia miyamotoi, Babesia spp., Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Francisella tularensis, Bartonella spp. and tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV).
Altogether 15 067 Ixodes ricinus and 46 Ixodes persulcatus were collected during 68 km of dragging. Field collections revealed different seasonal activity patterns for the two species. The activity of I. persulcatus adults (only one nymph detected) was unimodal, with activity only in May–July, whereas Ixodes ricinus was active from May to September, with activity peaks in September (nymphs) or July–August (adults). Overall, tick densities were higher during the latter years of the study. Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato were the most common pathogens detected, with 48.9 ± 8.4% (95% Cl) of adults and 25.3 ± 4.4% of nymphs carrying the bacteria. No samples positive for F. tularensis, Bartonella or TBEV were detected.
This collaboration project involving the extensive Finnish Research Station network has ensured enduring and spatially extensive, long-term tick data collection to the foreseeable future.