Good story in Northern Woodlands about a promising control of the ticks killing moose. The article is here. Details:
Cheryl Sullivan, an entomologist with the Entomology Research Laboratory at University of Vermont, is spearheading a project investigating entomopathogenic fungi as potential allies against the winter tick. These fungi consume arthropods like insects, spiders – and, yes, ticks.
Entomopathogenic fungi are found naturally in soils worldwide and infect hosts through aerial spores. When a spore lands on a tick, it germinates, puncturing the tick’s outer shell, then spreads its hyphae – the threads that comprise the fungi’s mycelium network – through the tick’s body. Like something out of a horror movie, the growing fungus tears apart its host’s internal organs and produces toxins, eventually killing the host. Fruiting bodies sprout from the host, releasing more spores.
Sullivan and the team at UVM tested fungal strains of Metarhizium anisopliae and M. brunneum against winter ticks. Some strains are already available commercially to control insects and mites in residential settings, and some were isolated from forest soils in northern Vermont. While commercial strains were most effective, Sullivan found that in laboratory experiments a local strain killed 89 percent of tick larvae within three weeks.
The article is clear that this isn’t a magic bullet, but it’s hopeful.