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Adult deer tick, Ixodes scapularis.

Lyme Disease-Fighting Project In Northeast To Enlist Deer

By Jan Suszkiw
August 5, 1997

Deer will bring ticks to their doom in a new pilot project aimed at reducing the threat of Lyme disease. The five-year USDA “Northeast Regional Tick Control Project” begins this fall at test sites in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, and New Jersey. A fifth site opens in Maryland in 1998.

The project aims to prevent deer from carrying ticks into areas that people use, like parks and backyards. The strategy: Deer that eat corn at a special feeding station will be treated with a safe tick-killing chemical. Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service developed, patented and field tested the feeding station, according to an ARS report detailing the project.

The northeast accounts for 90 percent of the 100,000-plus cases of Lyme disease reported nationwide since 1982, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

ARS scientists, collaborating universities and others will participate in the project. It is being led by ARS scientists John George, Mat Pound and Allen Miller and Lyme disease expert Durland Fish of Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Conn.

The project will use about 125 corn-filled feeding stations equipped with rollers. The rollers will apply amitraz to the head, neck and ears of each white-tailed deer that eats corn kernels from a bin. Amitraz doesn’t harm deer.

The goal is to reduce by 90 percent the nymphs--an immature stage--of Ixodes scapularis ticks at each 1,280-acre central test site. Pinhead-size nymphs are more likely than adult ticks to infect people with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Pound, Miller and technician Craig LeMeilleur developed the deer feeding stations, called “4-posters.” Each has four upright paint rollers coated with amitraz. In field trials in Texas, the approach curbed up to 97 percent of Texas lone star ticks. These ticks cannot not transmit Lyme disease, but may harbor other harmful organisms.

For news media, ARS News Service can provide by fax or e-mail a 1500-word report on the project. Request from Jan Suszkiw, ARS Information Staff, phone (301) 344-2173,

Scientific contact: John George, Matt Pound, Allen Miller, ARS Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory, Kerrville, Tex., phone (830) 279-0339, fax 792- 0337,,,