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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory » Research » Research Project #438526

Research Project: Evaluation of USDA’s New Bait Treatment System (a.k.a. “TickLick”) for Use by White-Tailed Deer and Other wildlife in Natural Habitats

Location: Invasive Insect Biocontrol & Behavior Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-32000-012-017-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2020
End Date: Dec 31, 2023

The overall goal of this project is to evaluate the use of the “TickLick”, the USDA’s new patent-pending Bait Treatment System, by white-tailed deer and other wildlife in various habitats to determine its utilities for host-targeted tick control. Specific objectives are to (1) determine timing and frequency of the visit and use of “TickLick” devices by deer and other wildlife; (2) evaluate different bait formulations (mineral/salt blocks, etc.) for attractiveness to deer and other wildlife; (3) assess relationship between tick population density and diversity / population density of deer and other host animals in environment; and (4) develop scientifically supported protocols for future deployment of this novel bait treatment system given different landscape and animal community composition.

USDA-ARS will provide University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) with the engineering blueprint / design of the “TickLick” device for construction of experimental units at the university machine shop for use in this study. UMD will oversee the construction process to ensure the quality of final experimental units and timely completion of the work. Research will be conducted by UMD with guidance from USDA-ARS. Field work of this project will be conducted in areas of high Lyme reservoir potential in Montgomery County, MD, including parks and greenspaces in areas. All natural areas and neighborhoods would be located where deployment of the “TickLick” devices could be implemented to potentially reduce tick abundance on mammalian hosts and in environment across gradients of urbanization. A total of nine field locations will be included to represent Urban, Sub-Urban, and Ex-Urban habitats (3 each). Four “TickLick” units will be placed in each park adjacent to backyards (n = 36). The test units will be placed within each park at least 100 m apart, baited with basic salt block, a molasses / protein block (>20% crude protein), a block that has grains embedded, and one unbaited unit. Each test unit will have two assigned Bushnell remote cameras, one will be placed with a wide angle view of the unit and one will be positioned on a stand and facing directly down over the trap to capture how any animal come in physical contact with the unit. Additionally, each site will have one Reconyx remote camera remain and placed apart from the “TickLick” devices to continue to assess the overall mammalian species community. Cameras will be checked weekly and units and/or bait blocks will be weighed to assess bait usage. Digital camera images will be analyzed to generate animal presence and activity data. Small-medium mammals will be trapped on a limited basis for tick and tissue collection via small curvilinear trapping arrays. Small mammals will be trapped using folding Sherman live traps and medium mammals will be trapped using appropriate Havahart box traps at the boundary of natural areas and residences from June-September to collect attached ticks and tissue. The number of juvenile ticks feeding on mice will be recorded. Each small mammal will receive a uniquely numbered ear tag. A 0.1 mL blood sample will be drawn. Tick and animal tissue samples will be sent to a cooperator for pathogen testing. All trapping will be conducted under appropriate wildlife permits and approved IACUC protocols. Host-seeking nymphs and adults will be sampled by standard sweeping / dragging methods, at study sites to generate baseline data. CO2 traps will also be used to sample ticks weekly through the adult season (late autumn and early spring). Residential sites will be selected for tick sampling with regard to similar lot size and landscaping characteristics to meet the design criteria. Ticks will be transported to the laboratory for counting and identification (tick species, developmental stage). Tick samples will then be preserved in 80% ethanol for testing of main tick-borne pathogens, particularly Borrelia burgdorferi, with PCR.