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Managing Japanese Barberry (Ranunculales: Berberidaceae) Infestations Reduces Blacklegged Tick (Acari: Ixodidae) Abundance and Infection Prevalence With Borrelia burgdorferi (Spirochaetales: Spirochaetaceae)

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In many Connecticut forests with an overabundance of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus Zimmermann), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii DC) has become the dominant understory shrub, which may provide a habitat favorable to blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis Say) and white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus Rafinesque) survival. To determine mouse and larval tick abundances at three replicate sites over 2 yr, mice were trapped in unmanipulated dense barberry infestations, areas where barberry was controlled, and areas where barberry was absent. The number of feeding larval ticks/mouse was recorded. Adult and nymphal ticks were sampled along 200-m draglines in each treatment, retained, and were tested for Borrelia burgdorferi (Johnson, Schmid, Hyde, Steigerwalt, and Brenner) presence. Total first-captured mouse counts did not differ between treatments. Mean number of feeding larval ticks per mouse was highest on mice captured in dense barberry. Adult tick densities in dense barberry were higher than in both controlled barberry and no barberry areas. Ticks sampled from full barberry infestations and controlled barberry areas had similar infection prevalence with B. burgdorferi the first year. In areas where barberry was controlled, infection prevalence was reduced to equal that of no barberry areas the second year of the study. Results indicate that managing Japanese barberry will have a positive effect on public health by reducing the number of B. burgdorferi-infected blacklegged ticks that can develop into motile life stages that commonly feed on humans.
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