The five-year project, which began in 2017, is focusing on reducing the number of ticks in people's yards by using two methods, separately or together; both are simple and safe for people, pets, and the environment.
The first is the “Tick Control System” (TCS), a simple but ingenious idea that utilizes a small bait box to attracts rodents. When the rodent enters the box, it is coated with a drop of fipronil, a broad-spectrum insecticide that is the active ingredient in many tick treatments used on pets. The second method uses Metarhizium anisopliae, (Met52) a derivative of a naturally occurring fungus found in the forest soils in eastern North America. Met52 is designed to kill ticks, but is not harmful to other insects or arachnids.
Dr. Ostfeld reported that “The Tick Project” is now in its 2nd year. Over 2,000 residents in twenty-four Dutchess County neighborhoods have volunteered to participate, and the research is conducted in a randomized, placebo-controlled double blind study – the scientific gold standard.
According to the Institute, “by targeting ticks, we anticipate that neighborhoods treated with Met52 and TCS will have fewer ticks and fewer cases of tick-borne diseases. The study outcome will allow us to recommend Lyme disease prevention plans that could be immediately adopted by local municipalities, governments, community groups or neighborhoods.”
The need for prevention is stronger than ever, with expanding tick populations and more than 300,000 Americans diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. In the meantime, here are some facts you should know:
- Though most adult ticks remain inactive during the winter, ticks that did not previously acquire a blood meal can be active searching for hosts at any time in the winter when temperatures rise above freezing – so colder weather does not guarantee safety;
- Black-legged ticks favor shaded wooded areas, so hikers are encouraged to stay on cleared paths;
- Mice, chipmunks and shrews carry the Lyme bacterium but apparently do not suffer ill effects; their immune systems fail to even bother mounting a defense to the disease;
- Deer are prime hosts for adult black-legged ticks, as over a hundred ticks can feast on a single deer;
- Researchers recommend that parents use approved treatments such as DEET and permethrin on clothing and footwear to safeguard youngsters playing in possible tick environments;
- A single tick bite can pack a double (or triple) pathogen punch: physicians are diagnosing more cases of Lyme, babesiosis and anaplasmosis in New York;
- Nymphal ticks (mid-point in a tick’s life cycle) are as small as poppy seeds, can deliver the infection to people just as an adult tick can, and are most abundant from May through July.
We will be following the results of these studies very carefully, and when the time comes we will advocate strongly for these methods to be used on Staten Island.
The truth is that our quality-of-life here is threatened by many man-made problems, from poor roads to lack of housing options to high taxes to ultra-long commutes. But we can no longer turn a blind eye to the dangers Mother Nature throws our way – they need to be dealt with as well.