Tick-Control Methods Head to Scotland
Entomologist Mat Pound and agricultural engineer Allen Miller, at ARS's Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory, Kerrville, Texas, are well known for their research to control ticks on white-tailed deer and other wild ungulates. They have developed several control methods including medicated bait, the 4-poster topical applicator, injectable medicated microspheres, an automatic collaring device, and a safe and efficient deer capture and handling system. These technologies offer potential solutions to the problem of treating deer to rid them of blacklegged ticks and lone star ticks, which transmit agents causing Lyme disease, human ehrlichioses, human babesiosis, and several other diseases.
Pound and Miller recently made a trip to Scotland to meet with Adam Smith, senior scientist at Scottish Upland Research in Newtonmore. That research agency serves as the scientific wing of the Game Conservancy Trust (GCT) in central Scotland. The two ARS scientists were invited to give presentations on their work to the Tick Working Group of the GCT and to a general meeting of 75 members of the trust. Those attending were mainly landholders and gamekeepers of large estates—including the Prince of Wales and the Marquis of Lansdowne—who have deep interests in wildlife conservation.
Disease-carrying ticks have become an increasing problem on large estates, where red deer populations are thriving. Ticks are brought into the areas on deer. Then, the ticks feed on mountain hares and become infected with a virus. Later, if they feed on chicks of the Scottish red grouse, they transmit the deadly virus to the young birds. Red grouse is the most popular game bird in Scotland, where hunting on the large estates is both a cherished sport and of great economic importance.
Now the tick may be about to meet its match. At least that is what Pound and Miller hope to accomplish through collaborative efforts with GCT scientists. The two ARS researchers want to see whether the medicated corn, 4-poster, or other technologies can be adapted to the Scottish environment to control the ticks and save red grouse populations.
In the spring of 2003, the Scottish scientists trapped and treated adult red grouse with medicated leg bands in hopes that the treatment would prevent ticks from biting newly hatched nestlings. In August, some estates were holding their first red grouse drives in several years to see whether the populations had increased. Scottish observers anticipate increased numbers of grouse this year. But it's premature to claim success until quantitative data are available.—By Alfredo Flores, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff.
J. Mat Pound and J. Allen Miller are in the USDA-ARS Livestock Insects Research Unit, Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insect Research Laboratory, 2700 Fredericksburg Rd., Kerrville, TX 78028; phone (830) 257-3566, fax (830) 792-0337.
"Tick-Control Methods Head to Scotland" was published in the April 2004 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.