Haemaphysalis leporispalustrisRabbit fever tick(Also: Rabbit tick)

Geographic Range

Haemaphysalis leporispalustris is found throughout North, Central, and South America (Freitas, Facini, and Labruna 2008). These parasites feed on rabbits and have a preference for cottontail rabbits but will also feed on hares (Labruna et al. 2000). Colder climates are tolerable for H. leporispalustris (Gabriele-Rivet et al. 2015), allowing it to range from Alaska and Canada to Argentina. (Freitas, et al., 2008; Gabriele-Rivet, et al., 2015; Labruna, et al., 2000)


Found in a wide variety of biomes, H. leporispalustris are hardy, and do not seem to have specific requirements for their environment except for their host (Freitas, Faccini, labruna 2008). (Freitas, et al., 2008)

Physical Description

Haemaphysalis leporispalustris is small, ranging from 1 to 2 mm when unengorged and around 5 mm when engorged (Quinn 2016). Rabbit ticks are a brown tick with a triangular mouth piece and conspicuous "festoons" around the bottom of the abdomen, with males being typically larger though it has difficult to compare without a female present (Vector-borne Disease Laboratory Maine Medical Center Research Institute 2016). Often H. leporispalustris will be physically compared to the wood tick, Dermacentor variabilis. (Quinn, 2016; "Other Ticks Found in Maine", 2016)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range length
    1 to 5 mm
    0.04 to 0.20 in
  • Average length
    2 mm
    0.08 in


As with most ticks, H. leporispalustris has a hemimetabolic life cycle. The larvae hatches from an egg, molts into a nymph, then the nymph will molt into a sexually mature adult (Quinn 2016). There are no pupal stages in this life cycle. Haemaphysalis leporispalustris is most commonly found during the spring and summer months and less frequently during fall and winter in cold climates (Vector-borne Disease Laboratory Maine Medical Center Research Institute, 2016). (Quinn, 2016; "Other Ticks Found in Maine", 2016)


Mating in H. leporispalustris is polygynandrous, males and females will have multiple mates throughout their reproductive lifespan (Quinn 2016). In cold climates H. leporispalustris is most commonly found in the spring and summer, and less commonly in the fall and winter (Vector-borne Disease Laboratory Maine Medical Center Research Institute, 2016). It is possible, but not known, that H. leporispalustris could breed year-round in warm climates if host populations were stable. (Quinn, 2016; "Other Ticks Found in Maine", 2016)

Reproduction in H. leporispalustris is believed to be similar to other hard-bodied ticks in Ixodidae, in that they mate on their host after feeding recently (Oliver Jr., Al-Ahmadi, and Osburn 1974). During the winter in colder climates breeding will become less frequent. Females will lay clutches of up to 2400 eggs, these eggs will have a gestation period of 22 to 61 days (Quinn 2016). (Oliver Jr., et al., 1974; Quinn, 2016)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • sexual
  • Breeding interval
    Rabbit ticks will search for mates on host after feeding
  • Breeding season
    Breed in spring and summer, less frequently in fall and winter
  • Range number of offspring
    0 eggs to 2400 eggs
  • Range gestation period
    22 to 61 days
  • Average time to independence
    0 minutes

There is no parental investment in the young of this species.

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement


Rabbit ticks are not typically kept in captive settings, aside from in laboratory settings for research. The typical lifespan of H. leporispalustris in these settings is about 135.8 days, longer if winter conditions are simulated (Zheng et al 2010). In the wild, the lifespan of H. leporispalustris is more difficult to study given their size and lifestyle as an ectoparasite. It is believed to be similar to others in the Haemaphysalis genus, which again is an average of 135 days. (Zheng, et al., 2010)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    135 days


Haemaphysalis leporispalustris is known to be solitary and only come together when they are feeding on the same host or looking for a mate on the same host (Oliver Jr., Al-Ahmadi, and Osburn 1974). Like most ticks, H. leporispalustris will exhibit questing behaviors. When the tick senses a nearby host, it will climb up the highest vegetation possible and await for the host to pass by, allowing for a chance to be brushed onto the host (Camin and Ray 1978, Gabriele-Rivet et al 2015). After getting on the host body, H. leporispalustris will latch onto its host by the mouthpiece and feed there for several days (Quinn 2016). Eventually, it will drop after becoming engorged. (Camin and Ray, 1978; Gabriele-Rivet, et al., 2015; Oliver Jr., et al., 1974; Quinn, 2016)

Home Range

While Haemaphysalis leporispalustris is mobile, its only main movement is to quest to acquire a host. When latched onto a host H. leporispalustris will go wherever the host travels and drop at some point along the host's movement (Camin and Ray 1978). Latching may allow for the spread of H. leporispalustris, especially over the summer months when they are in the larval and nymph stages and are willing to feed on birds (Gabriele-Rivet et al 2015). (Camin and Ray, 1978; Gabriele-Rivet, et al., 2015)

Communication and Perception

All species of ticks possess a special sense organ called Haller's organ, a complex olfactory organ that allows these parasites to find their hosts. This organ is also able to sense changes in temperature, humidity, and carbon dioxide (CO2) levels (Nuttall, Cooper, and Robinson 1908). It is not known if or how H. leporispalustris communicate with one another. (Nuttall, et al., 1908)

Food Habits

Larval H. leporispalustris feed on the blood of small rodents and ground dwelling birds. The larvae feed for about 7 to 8 days, drop off their host and molt to a nymph stage. Nymph stages will continue to feed on the blood of small rodents and ground dwelling birds. Nymphs will feed for about 18 to 20 days, drop off their host and molt to their adult stage. Adults of H. leporispalustris feed only on the blood of rabbits and hares (Labruna et al 2000, Quinn 2016). (Labruna, et al., 2000; Quinn, 2016)

  • Animal Foods
  • blood


Common predators of Haemaphysalis leporispalustris are ants, birds, rodents, lizards, shrews, spiders, and the humble domestic chicken. While many of these predators are opportunistic in feeding on H. leporispalustris, it is susceptible to parasitoids in the genera Ixodiphagus and Hunterellus (Mwangi et al., 1991). (Mwangi, et al., 1991)

  • Known Predators
    • Ants (Formicidae)
    • Birds (Aves)
    • Rodents (Rodentia)
    • Lizards (Squamata)
    • Shrews (Soricidae)
    • Spiders (Araneae)
    • Domestic chickens (Phasianidae)

Ecosystem Roles

This animal is an ectoparasite that feeds on the blood of its hosts. During the larval and nymph stages, H. leporispalustris will feed on small rodents and ground dwelling birds, while adults will exclusively feed on rabbits and hares (Quinn 2016, van Praag Ph.D. 2016). This parasite is susceptible to parasitoid hymenopteran wasps in the genera Ixodiphagus and Hunterellus. The parasitoids will lay eggs inside of the tick and the larvae of the wasps will essentially eat the tick to death. Haemaphysalis leporispalustris mostly plays a role in the spreading of disease (Freitas, Faccini, and Labruna 2008, Vector-borne Disease Laboratory Maine Medical Center Research Institute, 2016). If the tick does not infect its host with a disease, in large numbers it could possibly weaken the host and make the host more susceptible to other pathogens. Notable diseases include tularemia, Q fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These diseases are rarely spread to humans directly from the tick, however, an increase in these diseases in their respective reservoir hosts can increase the chance humans will contract them from said hosts (Quinn 2016). (Freitas, et al., 2008; Quinn, 2016; "Other Ticks Found in Maine", 2016; van Praag Ph.D., 2016)

Species Used as Host
  • Sylvilagus
  • Lepus
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Ixodiphagus
  • Hunterellus

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

No major benefits for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

No major negative impact on humans, occasional annoyance. Can be a vector for Francisella tularensis, the causative agent for tularemia, Coxiella burnetii, the causative agent of Q fever, and Rickettsia rickettsii, the causative agent of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These bacteria are rarely transmitted to humans by tick, however H. leporispalustris is an important reservoir and vector for these diseases in rabbit and rodent populations(Quinn 2016). These diseases could also affect domestic rabbits if exposed (van Praag Ph.D. 2016). (Quinn, 2016; van Praag Ph.D., 2016)

Conservation Status

There is no special concern or attention given to Haemaphysalis leporispalustris over its conservation status.


Britta Bibbo (author), University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.


an animal that mainly eats meat

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


(as keyword in perception channel section) This animal has a special ability to detect heat from other organisms in its environment.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


an animal that mainly eats blood


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


living in residential areas on the outskirts of large cities or towns.


Coniferous or boreal forest, located in a band across northern North America, Europe, and Asia. This terrestrial biome also occurs at high elevations. Long, cold winters and short, wet summers. Few species of trees are present; these are primarily conifers that grow in dense stands with little undergrowth. Some deciduous trees also may be present.


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


Vector-borne Disease Laboratory Maine Medical Center Research Institute. 2016. "Other Ticks Found in Maine" (On-line). Ticks in Maine. Accessed August 11, 2016 at http://www.ticksinmaine.com/ticks/other-ticks.

Camin, J., R. Ray. 1978. Climbing Behavior and Host-Finding of Larval Rabbit Ticks (Haemaphysalis leporispalustris). The Journal of Parasitology, 64:5: 905-909.

Freitas, L., J. Faccini, M. Labruna. 2008. Experimental infection of the rabbit tick, Haemaphysalis leporispalustris, with the bacterium Rickettsia rickettsii, and comparative biology of infected and uninfected tick lineages. Experimental and Applied Acarology, 47:4: 321–345.

Gabriele-Rivet, V., J. Arsenault, J. Badcock, A. Cheng, J. Edsall, J. Goltz, J. Kennedy, R. Lindsay, Y. Pelcat, N. Ogden. 2015. Different Ecological Niches for Ticks of Public Health Significance in Canada. PLoS ONE, 10:7: e0131282.

Labruna, M., R. Leite, J. Faccini, F. Ferreira. 2000. Life Cycle of the Tick Haemaphysalis Leporis-palustris (Acari: Ixodidae) Under Laboratory Conditions. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 24:9: 683–694.

Mwangi, E., O. Dipeolu, R. Newsonq, G. Kaaya, S. Hassan. 1991. Predators, parasitoids and pathogens of ticks: A review. Biocontrol Science and Technology, 1:3: 147-156.

Nuttall, G., W. Cooper, L. Robinson. 1908. On the Structure of “Haller's Organ” in the Ixodoidea. Parasitology, 1:3: 238-242.

Oliver Jr., J., Z. Al-Ahmadi, R. Osburn. 1974. Reproduction in Ticks (Acari: Ixodoidea). 3. Copulation in Dermacentor occidentalis marx and Haemaphysalis leporispalustris (Packard) (Ixodidae). The Journal of Parasitology, 60:3: 499-506.

Quinn, M. 2016. "Iowa State University Department of Entomology" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 09, 2016 at http://bugguide.net/node/view/596458.

Woolley, T. 1972. Some Sense Organs of Ticks as Seen by Scanning Electron Microscopy. Transactions of the American Microscopical Society, 91:1: 35-47.

Zheng, H., Z. Yu, Z. Chen, L. Zhou, B. Zheng, H. Ma, J. Liu. 2010. Development and biological characteristics of Haemaphysalis longicornis (Acari: Ixodidae) under field conditions. Experimental and Applied Acarology, 53:4: 377-388.

van Praag Ph.D., E. 2016. "Ticks in Rabbits" (On-line). MediRabbit. Accessed August 11, 2016 at http://www.medirabbit.com/EN/Skin_diseases/Parasitic/Ticks/Ticks.htm.