The electromagnetic field (EMF) is present in the environment throughout the world and encompasses both natural and human-made sources of electromagnetic fields. It has been shown that EMF influences a variety of biological systems, including the behavioural responses of both vertebrates and invertebrates. As such, determining the effects of the EMF on the ecosystem in detail may be important for understanding the ecology and biology of organisms, particularly those, such as ticks, that are important in disease transmission. Our main goal was to determine if the tick, Dermacentor reticulatus, interacts with the EMF. An experimental behavioural test of tick sensitivity to radio frequency power radiation was performed under laboratory conditions. Tests were performed in an electromagnetic compatibility laboratory in a radio frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) anechoic chamber. Ticks were irradiated using a Double-Ridged Waveguide Horn Antenna with 900 MHz RF-EMF. The applied radio-frequency power was tuned below the proposed limit for public exposure to mobile phone base stations. We found that exposure induces an immediate tick locomotor response manifested either in a previously unreported jerking movement of the whole body or in jerking of the first pair of legs. Overall, ticks exhibited significantly greater movement in the presence of the RF-EMF. Significant sex differences relative to RF-EMF exposure were observed in both response variables. In the presence of RF-EMF, body jerking by females was greater than in males and vice versa for leg jerks. This study represents the first experimental evidence of a behavioural response of D. reticulatus ticks to exposure to RF-EMF.
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Vol. 22 • No. 5