Redding site for tick study

Nymph tick from the USDA Image Library

Nymph tick from the USDA Image Library

In an effort to find the best combination of strategies to kill ticks and reduce the risk of Lyme disease in a residential area, a tick management study was conducted in Redding last fall.

The fieldwork portion of this study, called the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded Integrated Tick Management study, has ended.

Forty homes in Redding participated in the study: Twelve on Drummer Lane and Gallows Hill; 13 on Thankful Bradley, John Applegate, Farview Farm, and Blueberry Hill; eight on Pheasant Ridge and Sunny View, and seven on White Birch and Old Redding Road.

“Our objective was to compare the most effective combination of three tick-management techniques: a rodent-targeted bait box that applied a low dose of fipronil (the active ingredient in Frontline), a spray treatment of a naturally occurring soil-borne fungus, and deer reduction,” said Scott Williams, associate scientist from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, Center for Vector Biology and Zoonotic Diseases.

“Where we used the combination of rodent bait boxes and fungal spray only is where we had the most success in reducing encounters with blacklegged (“deer”) ticks in people’s backyards,” Williams said.

“For all years combined from May until the end of July, we encountered at least one tick on 17% of visits to these houses, 32% of visits both at homes that received no treatment and all three treatments, and 35% of visits to homes that received deer removals only.  

“We also had up to 97% control of ticks within each year after applying the fungal spray to targeted properties,” he said.

As a result of the study, he said deer reductions caused ticks to feed on alternative other available hosts, such as small- and medium-sized mammals.

Kirby C. Stafford, chief entomologist for the State Entomologist at the Department of Entomology, said it was unique to conduct a study in a residential area.

“Deer reduction studies traditionally have all been done on islands or peninsulas or other isolated tracks, so this is one of the first times we were trying to see whether we can achieve targets in neighborhoods on a mainland setting,” Stafford said.

According to Williams, this was a tick study with a deer  removal component, and not a deer removal project only.  

“It was never the purpose of the project to reduce the deer herd and/or tick-borne disease throughout all of Redding’s 32 square miles; our goal was to compare which treatment combinations worked best to reduce tick abundances on participating properties,” he said.

However, he explained that ultimately, due to societal pressures, those who conducted the study were not able to achieve what they intended.

“They were not able to remove enough deer to reach targeted goals that have been shown to negatively impact the number of deer ticks,” Williams said. “If there is not near unanimous support for significant deer reduction as a tick management strategy, it will prove very challenging to be a successful technique in an inland setting.”

Lyme disease cases are greatly underreported.

“Only about 10% of diagnosed Lyme disease cases end up being reported and tabulated by the Health Department or CDC. Nationally, there are 30,000 to 35,000 cases being reported each year, which translates to 300,000 to 350,000 cases occurring,” Stafford said.

Stafford recommended that when looking for information on options to control ticks on one’s property, it’s important to have all the facts on how effective these approaches or methods are.

“Know what works, what doesn’t work and how well does it work,” he said.

The project ends at the end of August. The study will be available to the public by the fall.

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