Summary Immunofluorescence (IFA) and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were examined as methods for detecting Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato spirochaetes in unfed Ixodes ricinus nymphs. Although similar results were produced in some cases, a great deal of variation occurred. Furthermore, in both the highly controlled initial laboratory study, involving 252 shared samples, and the study on field-collected ticks (n = 460), the IFA tended to detect more infected ticks than the PCR. The basis for these findings are as yet undetermined. The development of a quality assurance scheme is recommended so that laboratories can validate their methods and a preliminary feasibility study suggested that such a scheme is practical.