Killing ticks through controlled burns

Can we kill ticks through controlled burns? In the journal Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, researchers describe findings from a study in which they surveyed questing and on-host ticks in forests with various fire management regimes in an area near Houston, Texas. They looked at two transects with a history of controlled burns and two with no burns.

In the short run, we can kill ticks, explains Hodo and colleagues. “Controlled burns may affect tick populations, pathogen prevalence, and risk of pathogen exposure to humans and animals and therefore may be a useful tool in integrated tick management.” wrote Hodo in an article addressing killing ticks.

“We found a marked difference in density of host-seeking ticks between transects with different burn histories and an overall low prevalence of known pathogens,” Hodo writes.

According to their survey, the number of ticks was reduced from 15 and 18 ticks per 1000 m2 in unburned areas to 2 and 4 ticks per 1000 m2 burned areas. “We observed low questing tick density in areas with a history of controlled burns,” Hodo explains.

Researchers collected 112 ticks from drag samples. The majority (2 out of 3) were Ixodes scapularis ticks, also known as the deer tick. The remaining were Amblyomma americanum ticks (lone star tick).

[bctt tweet=”Researchers find tick population in eastern Texas can be reduced with controlled burns. ” username=”DrDanielCameron”]

They were also able to collect 106 ticks from drag operators’ clothing, confirming the occupational hazard for researchers.

Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, was not detected in any of the ticks. However, researchers were able to detect a high prevalence of Rickettsia and a low prevalence of relapsing fever in the collected ticks.

Other studies investigating the impact of killing ticks using controlled burns have had mixed results, according to Hodo’s review of the literature.

Editor’s Note: While controlled burns did demonstrate a reduction in the number of ticks, the long-term effect is uncertain. The tick population could potentially return once the flora re-emerges.

  1. Hodo CL, Forgacs D, Auckland LD, Bass K, Lindsay C, Bingaman M, Sani T, Colwell K, Hamer GL, Hamer SA. Presence of diverse Rickettsia spp. and absence of Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato in ticks in an East Texas forest with reduced tick density associated with controlled burns. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2019 Oct 17:101310.

2 Replies to "Killing ticks through controlled burns"

  • Vanna Lynch
    09/09/2022 (7:19 pm)

    My parents bought a 40 acre property 50 years ago. Every night we all had to be checked for ticks before bed. They did controlled burns for about a 2 acre area surrounding our house for 3 years in a row. To this day, over 50 years later there is no longer a tick problem.

  • john cockerill
    02/29/2020 (7:09 pm)

    This is a temporary measure which would eliminate the ticks and reduce tick bites in the burnt area, until The mice they feed on and deer revisit for vegetation and residence. You are far better off to use the prescribed preventive steps and avoid high vegetation where tick quest for your blood. Blouse you pants into your socks, spray with Off Deep Woods, and don’t go into virgin woods if not necessary. Shower as soon as you get back to home base, and buddy inspect for ticks. Google Tick bites if you need more information, before you go out to tick habitats. Which may be your own back yard.

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