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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #433262

Research Project: Mechanisms of Tick-Host Interaction and Implications to Deer Tick Parasitism, Pathogen Transmission, and Tick Control

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32000-012-002-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2017
End Date: Aug 30, 2022

(1) Evaluate the ecology of aggregation behavior in blacklegged ticks on white-footed mice in central Pennsylvania including (a) the prevalence of ticks on white-footed mice in central Pennsylvania, (b) immune status and stress levels of white-footed mice with and without tick infestation, (c) odor profile of white-footed mice with and without tick infestation, and (d) the infection status of white-footed mice and ticks collected from white-footed mice in central Pennsylvania with tick-borne pathogens; and (2) Evaluate the effectiveness of areawide use of integrated tick control in Maryland and determine roles of white-tailed deer and white-footed mouse in maintaining and spreading ticks by GPS tracking of deer and mouse movements in parks / natural areas and surrounding residential areas.

Research under Objective 1 will be led by Penn State University in collaboration with USDA, ARS. The role of immune status and semiochemicals on aggregate host selection by blacklegged ticks will be evaluated in Centre County, Pennsylvania. White-footed mice will be trapped on two consecutive days for four months at a local state park and screened for ticks. Physical and biological measurements of the animal, including sex and body size, will be obtained. Blood and ear tissue samples will be collected to determine infection status with tick-borne pathogens. Additional blood samples will be taken to analyze complete blood counts and serum chemistry status to determine the effects of tick loads on white-footed mice. Mice will be eartaggd and released. Each month, five mice that do not have ticks, and those that do have ticks will be brought to the laboratory and three odor samples will be collected from each mouse. Odors will be collected by placing subject mice in an odor collection container and running carbon filtered and humidified air through this container and to tenax filter. Filter will be eluted with hexane or pentane, depending on polarity. Additional compound collection methods may be used if necessary. Elutions will be processed by GS-MS to determine chemical profiles of infected and uninfected mice. Work under Objective 2 will be led by USDA ARS in collaboration with Penn State University and University of Maryland with appropriate protocols and permits at field locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Seven comparable parks in Howard County, Maryland have been selected as sites for evaluation of integrated control measures including 4-Poster feeders, Select TCS bait boxes, and entomopathogenic fungi (Met52). Treatment areas for evaluation are approximately 1500 m. Tick and mouse surveys will determine baseline tick density and changes as a result of tick control measures. Tick control efficacy of control measure will be determined. White-tailed deer capture will occur in the winter of 2018, and white-footed mouse capture and collaring will occur in the fall and spring of 2017 and 2018, respectively. The spatial and temporal movement patterns of each animal will be analyzed. Tick population dynamics and density data from field locations will be incorporated into GIS models to generate tick risk maps. Penn State University will provide support, mainly in personnel, to field work in the selected locations in Howard County, Maryland that are currently organized and led by the ARS Scientist, the principle investigator (PI) of the ARS Areawide Tick IPM Project.