The evolutionary ecology of many emerging infectious diseases, particularly vector-borne zoonoses, is poorly understood. Here, we aim to develop a biological, process-based framework for vector-borne zoonoses, using Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (s.l.), the causative agent of Lyme borreliosis in humans, as an example. We explore the fundamental biological processes that operate in this zoonosis and put forward hypotheses on how extrinsic cues and intrinsic dynamics shape B. burgdorferi s.l. populations. Additionally, we highlight possible epidemiological parallels between B. burgdorferi s.l. and other vector-borne zoonotic pathogens, including West Nile virus.