In recent years an increasing
attention has been directed to ticks and tick-borne pathogens and,
particularly, to zoonotic agents. Many factors have indeed led to an increased
contact between people and these arthropods, as for example climate change
(Dantas-Torres, 2015), the increase of wild animals in rural and peri-urban
areas (Torina et al., 2013) and the increased interest of people in outside
activities (Aureli et al., 2015).
The analysis reported in this study
describes the results of 2-years survey conducted to investigate the presence
of ticks in Monte Pellegrino Natural Reserve of Palermo (Italy), an urban park
attended by citizens for sportive and recreational activities.
The study provided information on tick
distribution among collection sites with different environmental
characteristics during the months of the years and in correlation to the
environmental characteristics of the territory (altimetry, land cover,
A great diversity of tick species
was found in the Natural Reserve. Data analysis showed that sites having
similar environmental features (1, 2, 3 and 5, 6) were characterized by similar
patterns of tick species. Sites n. 5 Catello
Utveggio and n. 6 Gorgo S.Rosalia
showed the greatest richness of tick species.
The most abundant tick species were I.ventalloi (n. 1425), H.lusitanicum (n. 618), R.sanguineus (n. 536) and R.pusillus (n. 498). All these tick
species are well-known vectors of animal and human pathogens.
Months in which the highest numbers
of total ticks were collected were June 2012 (n. 323), April 2013 (n. 256) and
January 2013 (n. 225), while the less numbers of ticks were collected in August
2012 (n. 15), February 2013 (n. 32) and May 2014 (n. 38). The presence and/or
absence of ticks during the year changed according to the life cycle of the
different species. The graphs joined to the monthly maps (Figures 8 A-L) showed
the monthly trend of each identified tick species in each collection site,
highlighting the differences in seasonality of each species due to its own
peculiar biological cycle.
In fact, I. ventalloi was present mostly from autumn to spring, with the
greatest abundance between October and January. On the contrary, H. lusitanicum was collected mainly from
late spring to autumn. R. sanguineus
and R. pusillus showed a similar seasonal
trend and their number was higher in spring and summer, while decreased
significantly to zero in winter. The few specimens of the ticks belonging to
the other identified species (Haem.
sulcata, D. marginatus and R. turanicus) didn’t allow establishing
the period of abundance/scarcity of these species.
To our knowledge, the area analysed
in this study was not previously subjected to epidemiological investigation
concerning ticks. This study contributes to the understanding and mapping presence
and distribution of the ticks and can be a powerful surveillance tool.
These data also allow identifying
periods of greater abundance of ticks in the study area, thus providing indications
for precautions to be observed by the attenders of the area during periods with
Moreover, some studies in northern
and central Italy (Mancini
et al., 2014; Mancini et al., 2015; Aureli et al., 2015) analyzed the presence of pathogens
in ticks collected from urban parks identifying different agents of zoonoses.
These findings highlight the importance of monitoring plans in areas attended
by families with
children and pets, walkers. The study constitutes a premise for additional researches including correlation
with pathogens in ticks and correlation with microclimate, hosts distribution