Larval and nymphal Ixodes pacificus Cooley and Kohls, I. (Ixodes) jellisoni Cooley and Kohls, and Dermacentor occidentalis Marx were tested for host preference when simultaneously presented with a deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus Wagner), California kangaroo rat (Dipodomys californicus Merriam), western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis Baird and Girard), and California towhee (Pipilo crissalis Vigors) in an experimental apparatus. Differences were observed in the preferences among the three species and between life stages. More larvae of all species approached and contacted hosts than did nymphs. Subadult I. pacificus entered all host-containing chambers in the highest numbers and remained on lizards most often after contact. Subadult I. jellisoni entered and remained in the chambers containing kangaroo rats, while rejecting mice, lizards, and birds as hosts. Subadult D. occidentalis most frequently entered rodent-containing chambers and contacted these hosts. After overnight exposure to all nonavian hosts, only I. pacificus parasitized and fed successfully on all three animals. I. jellisoni fed only on kangaroo rats and D. occidentalis fed only on rodents. Molting success ranged from ≈66 to 95% among tick species and stages. We concluded that, under laboratory conditions, I. pacificus larvae and nymphs prefer western fence lizards, but also will parasitize rodents. Dermacentor occidentalis immatures use deer mice and kangaroo rats similarly, whereas I. jellisoni subadults exclusively parasitize kangaroo rats. California towhees are considerably less attractive as hosts for these three ticks. These host preferences are consistent with what is known about the natural feeding habits of all three ticks.
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Vol. 46 • No. 1