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ARS Home » Plains Area » Kerrville, Texas » Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory » LAPRU » Research » Research Project #436694

Research Project: Integrated Pest Management of Cattle Fever Ticks

Location: Livestock Arthropod Pests Research

Project Number: 3094-32000-042-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Oct 1, 2019
End Date: Sep 30, 2024

Objective 1: Determine variables that influence tick range, suitable tick habitats, risk of tick-borne disease outbreaks, and potential for introduction of invasive ticks. Objective 2: Develop population genetic, ecological, and computational methods to improve cattle fever tick surveillance. • Subobjective 2A: Integrate cattle fever tick (CFT) genetic data with geographic information system (GIS) tools to enhance understanding of the geographic source and population structure of ticks causing outbreaks. • Subobjective 2B: Enhance GIS-based tools for CFT surveillance. • Subobjective 2C: Develop novel, and refine existing, CFT sampling methods. • Subobjective 2D: Model tick habitat suitability using machine/deep learning to predict favorable cattle fever tick locations in South Texas and Puerto Rico. Objective 3: Develop methods to control cattle fever ticks on livestock including new vaccines, genetic approaches, and other approaches to mitigate acaricide resistance. • Subobjective 3A: Evaluate the efficacy of novel acaricides and delivery systems against ticks on livestock, and through the targeted treatment of infested pastures and protected and sensitive habitats. • Subobjective 3B: Identify candidate antigens for anti-tick vaccines and formulate as vaccines for animal trials. • Subobjective 3C: Compare the genomes of R. microplus, R. annulatus, and Haemaphysalis longicornis to identify sex determination genes for the development of genetic control methods. • Subobjective 3D: Evaluate novel long-acting (LA) acaricide formulations to reduce the number of systematic treatments needed to manage cattle fever tick infestations. • Subobjective 3E: Define the role of genetics in the immunobiology of cattle-tick interactions to develop effective immunogenetics-based strategies to protect cattle from ticks and tick-borne diseases. Objective 4: Develop methods to mitigate the impact of invasive and exotic ticks. • Subobjective 4A: Determine genetic differences between H. longicornis populations from the U.S., and its native and invaded range through comparative molecular studies. • Subobjective 4B: Characterize genes known to be associated with resistance to commonly used acaricides in invasive and exotic tick species. Objective 5: Develop methods to control cattle fever ticks on wildlife, including anti-tick vaccine delivery, ecologically-friendly compounds, chemical delivery mechanisms and biological control organisms. Component 1: Problem Statement 1A • Subobjective 5A: Refine the remotely-activated sprayer to treat CFT infestation in nilgai and white-tailed deer. • Subobjective 5B: Evaluate delivery of anti-tick vaccines for use in white-tailed deer and nilgai. • Subobjective 5C: Evaluate natural botanicals, abrasives, and desiccants against cattle fever tick for use in sensitive wildlife habitats. • Subobjective 5D: Discover and evaluate classical biological control agents for cattle fever tick.

Cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus microplus and R. annulatus, are invasive pests that remain a threat to the livestock industry. They were eradicated from the United States in 1943; however, they remain established in Mexico and these populations tend to recolonize suitable habitats north of the Rio Grande. Cattle fever ticks transmit the microbes that cause bovine babesiosis and anaplasmosis. Significant cattle damage and economic loss would result if bovine babesiosis re-emerged in the United States. Research on new technologies to improve Integrated Pest Management (IPM) of cattle fever ticks is needed for implementation in the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP). This Program is operated in the Permanent Quarantine Zone established in south Texas along the Rio Grande to eliminate incursions from Mexico. The overall goal of this project is to conduct research on risk assessment and biology, surveillance, control, and monitoring and sustainability to improve integrated cattle fever tick management. The outcomes of this research will be effective, long-term adaptable technological solutions for the challenges that the CFTEP is facing. These include climate variability, acaricide resistance, involvement of native and exotic wildlife as alternative tick hosts, and the economic impact of tick outbreaks. The project will also benefit transdisciplinary efforts to achieve optimal health for animals, humans, and the environment, a concept known as “One Health”, by adapting this research to tick disease vectors expanding their range and exotic ticks that threaten animal and human health in the United States.