Prescribed Forest Burns Can Reduce Ticks Study Shows

An article in, “Study: Controlled burns reduce ticks, Lyme disease” was published on Jan 13, 2023, written by Ad Crable. The article covers a study published in Ecological Applications in which researchers from Penn State, the U.S. Forest Service and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection demonstrated that “more use of prescribed burns on public and private forests could help reduce both the numbers of ticks and incidence of the disease.”

Prescribed fires and their heat can kill some ticks, but the burning also creates a less favorable habitat for them. Without the prescribed fires, vegetation grows more densely, which allows ticks to more easily brush against hosts. In addition, dense vegetation creates warmer and humid microclimates that help ticks survive the winter.

“Burning can reduce the forest canopy, thin the understory and create gaps that make conditions hotter and drier in the day and colder at night, hindering tick survival,” said Erica Machtinger, a co-author of the study and assistant professor of entomology at Penn State University.

Prescribed fire has been used to control invasive plants, improve or create new habitats for wildlife, and restore ecosystem health; the added benefit of reducing ticks, which can curb the spread of Lyme disease, is welcome news.

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