Ticks may seem too small to be a readiness issue. But Soldiers training in the United States risk infection with one of 11 major tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease. Most are carried by species of ticks that feed on deer. On wooded installations and recreation areas, ticks can threaten Soldiers' families.
However, a new approach under evaluation by Army entomologists appears to reduce tick infestations by 90 percent, based on first phase testing results.
The '4-Poster' Deer Treatment Bait Station eliminates ticks by treating the host. As deer feed on corn bait, the device forces them to rub against rollers that apply pesticide to their ears, heads, necks and shoulders where roughly 90 percent of feeding ticks attach. Operating and maintaining the stations throughout the year encourages deer to visit frequently, sometimes daily. Each time a deer feeds at the bait station, it treats itself with enough pesticide to maintain a lethal tick barrier. As treated deer return to the woods they serve as a lethal mop, clearing the forest of ticks.
The baited treatment station was developed and patented by Agricultural Research Service scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Treating the host can replace wide-area pesticide broadcast, which kills not only ticks, but also non-target organisms. The new method greatly reduces the use of pesticides within the environment, an Integrated Pest Management goal.
The U.S. Army Environmental Center Pest Management Team placed the stations on 200 acres of Military Ocean Terminal Sunny Point property surrounding Fort Fisher, N.C.
The North Carolina National Guard and Sunny Point units use Fort Fisher for training. It is also a popular outdoor recreation facility for Soldiers and their families, but the tick population is high.
Areas where the '4-Poster' apparatus is placed have seen a 90 percent reduction in the lone star tick population. Since the deer tick has a two-year life cycle, USDA field research indicates that tick control should continue for at least three years to achieve satisfactory results.
Besides reducing the threat of tick-borne disease, the 4-poster method significantly reduces environmental and personal safety hazards by reducing the amount of pesticides used. It also eliminates the cost of ground and aerial tick control operations. Effective tick control also reduces the number of ticks to carry disease in the first place.
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