Viper tick removal service
Jul30

Viper tick removal service

One of many sessions that will focus on species interactions at ESA’s 2013 Annual Meeting by Nadine Lymn, ESA director of public affairs Human cases of Lyme disease continue to rise in the United States. The bacterial disease—which, if untreated can cause significant neurological problems, is transmitted to people by black-legged ticks, which pick up the pathogen by feeding on infected animals, primarily small mammals such as mice. Previous studies have shown that when fewer predators of small mammals are present, the abundance of ticks goes up, resulting in an increase of Lyme infections in people. Edward Kabay, at East Chapel Hill High School, together with Nicholas Caruso at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and Karen Lips with the University of Maryland, explored how timber rattlesnakes (Crotalus horridus) might play a key role in the prevalence of Lyme disease in humans. They modeled what and how much timber rattlesnakes ate based on published data on snake gut contents for four northeastern localities and determined the number of infected ticks removed from each location. Kabay, Caruso and Lips’ models showed that by eating mammalian prey, the snakes removed some 2,500 – 4,500 ticks from each site annually.  Rattlesnakes eradicated more ticks in areas with greater prey diversity than in habitats with less mammalian diversity. The trio’s research suggests that top predators like the timber rattlesnake play an important role in regulating the incidence of Lyme disease. But decreasing habitat and overharvesting of the snakes is driving their populations down, particularly in northern and upper midwestern areas, where the incidence of Lyme disease is highest. The presentation Timber Rattlesnakes may reduce incidence of Lyme disease in the Northeastern United States will take place on Tuesday, August 6, 2013: 4:40 PM in 101 I of the Minneapolis Convention...

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If you give a mouse an acorn…

The following is a story, but it describes a real scientific process: the relationship between acorns, mice, ticks and a bacterium. On a chilly November night, in a deciduous forest in the eastern U.S., a mouse prepares for the season ahead. More specifically, a female white-footed mouse—competing with other mice and animals for acorns—is reaping the fruits from a mast year: The oak trees in the region produced a generous blanket of acorns across the forest floor this autumn.

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Birds may expand the range of Lyme disease and its vector tick

Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is typically associated with mammals, but birds too can become infected by black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), the principal vector of the pathogen.  Moreover, birds may figure significantly in the range expansion of both the Lyme bacterium and black-legged ticks.  So say Jory Brinkerhoff and colleagues of Yale University in a paper published today in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Black-legged adults and nymphs with straight pin. Photo: Jim Occi, BugPics, United States As anyone who has been infected by the Lyme bacterium knows, it can cause any number of health problems including arthritis, nervous system abnormalities, and irregular heart rhythm.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States, with the number of reported human infections in the U.S. doubling between 1992 and 2006.   B. burgdorferi occurs naturally in small mammalian hosts such as mice, squirrels, and shrews.  Immature (larval and nymphal) ticks can become infected with the bacterium when they feed on these small mammals.  During subsequent blood meals, infected nymphs and adult ticks can transmit the infection to other hosts, including humans.  Interestingly, the white-tailed deer-though it plays an important role in maintaining tick populations-is, in fact, a “dead end” for the Lyme bacterium because deer blood is immune to infection from it.  Enter the birds. Gray catbird (top) and hermit thrush (below) carrying engorged immature ticks (red arrows). Photo: L Doss. Brinkerhoff and colleagues found published records indicating that at least 70 North American bird species are parasitized by immature black-legged ticks.  I. scapularis most consistently parasitizes thrushes, brown thrashers, wrens, and wood warblers.  The authors estimate that as few as three individual birds are required to produce one infected black-legged tick.  As they write in Frontiers:  White-tailed deer are probably responsible for the range expansion of I. scapularis, but they cannot transport B. burgdorferi.  Nomadic and post-breeding movements by birds, in addition to migration, facilitate the spread of B. burgdorferi and may result in northern range expansion of the pathogen and vector from the Northeast and in southern expansion from the Midwest. What remains to be seen, say the authors, is whether the B. burgdorferi strains that can infect birds can also infect mammals.  If the answer is yes, they say, then the role of birds in the transmission of Lyme disease to humans could be profound.   An abstract of the article can be accessed here and the complete paper is available here (subscription required).  Reporters interested in a copy of the paper or in speaking with the authors can contact Nadine Lymn at nadine@esa.org. Brinkerhoff, R., Folsom-O’Keefe,...

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