A standardized method for the construction of a tick drag/flag sampling approach and evaluation of sampling efficacy.
Drag sampling and flagging are two of the most effective and widely applied techniques to monitor tick populations. Despite the importance of this sampling strategy, there is a lack of standardized protocols for the construction of an inexpensive tick drag/flag. To this end, we provide a step-by-step protocol that details the construction of a tick drag/flag. We provide evidence of efficacy by comparing results obtained over 3-months at 108 locations within the William B. Bankhead National Forest, Alabama, USA. Overall, our drag/flag sampling approach yielded 1127 larvae, 460 nymphs, and 53 adults for a total of 1640 ticks representing three species. We detected significant patterns in Amblyomma americanum abundance for nymphs and adults with greater counts in June (β=0.91±0.36, 95% CI 0.55-1.27; β=2.44±0.63, 95% CI 1.81-3.07, respectively) and July (β=0.73±0.36, 95% CI 0.37-1.09; β=1.65±0.66, 95% CI 0.99-2.31, respectively) as compared to August. We also detected a significant difference in tick captures by tick drag/flag fabric type with greater captures when muslin was used as compared to flannel (β=1.07±0.06, 95% CI 1.01-1.13). Our goal is to provide instructions to assemble a highly effective tick drag/flag using minimal supplies. Evaluation and improvements of sampling techniques is essential to understand impacts of landscape management and larger stressors, such as climate change on tick populations but also for enhancing detection of invasive non-native species.