We recovered larval trombiculid mites (i.e. chiggers), vectors of scrub typhus, from small mammal hosts in Taiwan, and compared the relative degree of engorgement (RDE) of the dominant chigger (Leptotrombidium imphalum) from different hosts. Naturally occurring chiggers recovered from Rattus losea and Bandicota indica were 1.4x and 1.3x as engorged as those from Apodemus agrarius. Within each host species, RDE was negatively related to chigger loads, but was mostly unrelated to gender or to body or reproductive condition of hosts. We documented significant variation in chigger engorgement both within and among host species; to the extent that RDE is a proxy for fitness, this contradicts predictions of the Ideal Free Distribution (IFD) that the per capita fitness of vectors should be similar among hosts. Failure to meet predictions of the IFD may reflect the limited mobility of chiggers, which consequently must be less selective in the hosts on which they feed. Further disease control efforts should consider vector feeding success in addition to vector abundance and may be able to capitalize on the unsuitability of certain hosts in supporting disease vectors.
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