The biotic factors in the environment of the tick, Ixodes ricinus, exercise little effect on the geographical or local distribution of the species, or on its seasonal prevalence.
The local distribution is determined by edaphic factors, a wet, mossy, or peat soil and a dense mat of old vegetation or a rank growth being necessary for survival of the tick. In Britain, the critical season for survival is summer, during which the moisture factor in the microclimate acts in a limiting capacity.
The seasonal prevalence is determined by temperature. Within limits, which appear to correspond to air-temperature limits of 7 and 16° C. (weekly maxima), the unfed tick climbs the vegetation, and thus readily obtains a host. In Britain, it is inactivated in winter by the cold, and in summer it is less readily picked up by hosts because of its positive geotropic response to the stimulus of high temperatures.
The summer is, in Britain, the optimum season for development, which also proceeds to some extent in winter. Autumn and spring are parasitisation seasons. The life cycle, involving a parasitisation and a development season for each stage, requires a minimum of 1½ years. The period may extend to 4½ years.
The possible world distribution of the species is limited primarily by temperature. Thus, microclimatic extremes of — 14 and 35° C. limit the range through which the tick can survive. A period of at least 3 months with the mean air temperatures over 10° C. is necessary for development, while the mean air temperature of the coldest month must not exceed 10° C. to allow of parasitisation occurring.
Within the areas delimited in relation to the temperature requirements of the tick, distribution is governed by the moisture factor. An index of the suitability of an area within the temperature limits is afforded by the type of vegetation; forest and woodland, including grass and cultivation areas, as opposed to prairie and steppe, indicate suitable moisture conditions.