Ant Pheromones Deterring Ticks?

Ants on a logSimon Fraser University,  Jeff Hodson (04.11.24) reports, “Ant pheromones may help protect hikers and campers from ticks.” Researchers from Simon Fraser University found that ant pheromones used as a topical repellent, or as an environmental barrier, may protect people from tick bites. The study showed that specific pheromones from ants, even when ants were removed from the area, caused ticks to avoid the surfaces where ants had been. 

The team’s decision to investigate ants was based on a paper published in Royal Society Open Science (2024). This paper evaluated predators that black-legged ticks avoid. Because ants are “chemically noisy” it is “easy to predict where they’ll be, based on these pheromones.” Researchers identified the specific  chemical pheromones that ants produce that deterred ticks, and the specific glands that produce these pheromones. Working with a synthetic chemist and an analytical chemist, the team then chemically synthesized a version of these specific pheromones. They found that the synthetic pheromones were just as effective at repelling ticks as the natural pheromones.

There is a patent pending on the repellant chemicals found in ants. The team hopes to develop a commercially available topical repellent for human use, or an environmental repellent, which could be used to deter ticks at the landscape level.

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