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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #431332

Research Project: Integrated Tick Management for Suppression of Blacklegged Tick Populations in the Suburban Landscape

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32000-008-17-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2016
End Date: Dec 30, 2019

1) Assess population density and infection status of blacklegged ticks in natural areas and surrounding residential areas in suburban environment in Connecticut; (2) evaluate tick control efficacy of deer-targeted ('4-Poster'), rodent-targeted (Select TCS bait box), and area spray of pesticides, when used alone or in combination; and (3) determine if and how different ecological settings may affect the level of suppression of host-seeking ticks achieved through the implementation of host-targeted and non-host targeted tick control technologies.

This work will be conducted at The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Research protocols will be jointly developed the principle investigator (PI) of the USDA ARS Area wide Tick IPM Project. Appropriate permits will be obtained to work at field locations in New Haven County, CT. Assessment of population density and infection status of ticks will be achieved through tick sampling at test sites (natural areas, residential backyards / edges of wooded areas. Tick collection will be conducted by sweeping or dragging to generate quantitative estimates of tick population density. Tick sampling will be performed biweekly through the nymph (May-August) and adult (early spring and late autumn) seasons, respectively. Collected ticks will be preserved in 80% ethanol and identified to species morphologically. Ticks will be tested for main tick-borne pathogens, particularly Borrelia burgdorferi, with PCR techniques. Achieving this objective will allow proper assessment of entomologic risks for tick bite and Lyme disease, as well as evaluation of control efficacy of integrated tick control measures verses no intervention or single intervention. Field efficacy trials will be conducted in various locations to take into account different habitats and tick species compositions, as well as to obtain required replicates for statistical analysis. Six comparable natural areas or parks that are surrounded by residential areas, and known for presence of a large number of deer and high tick density will be identified and selected for each location. Experimental design will allow assignment of different combinations of tick control options to test areas for better understanding of the synergistic or additive effects of following tick control methods alone or in combination: (1) '4-Poster' deer feeders placed in the natural area or park, (2) Select TCS rodent bait boxes at residential homes, and (3) spray treatment at residences boarding the natural area or park with a biopesticide (Met52). A sufficient number of residential homes will be recruited / selected to serve in each residential treatment group. Tick surveys will help determination of baseline tick density and changes as a result of different tick control measures. Control efficacy of individual or combination of control measures will be determined. Comparable experimental designs will also be used in Maryland (MD) locations through a different agreement for tick survey, deer GPS tracking, and evaluation of efficacy of different tick control measures (integrated vs. singular). CT and MD are different in local climate, deer and tick population density, as well as overall suburban setting. Comparison of results obtained from those two states would help determine if one particular tick control measure, including intervention that integrates multiple measures, would work better in one environment than the other. Similarly, we will also be able to identify unique features of deer movement pattern / behavior, or environmental factors that may be used to help improve tick IPM design to achieve better tick control.