Barnstable Lyme Disease Program Has New Tool To Fight Deer Ticks

By David Wade, WBZ-TV

BARNSTABLE (CBS) – We’re heading into the worst time for ticks and Lyme disease; June, July and August.

That’s why we were intrigued when the man who runs a Lyme disease program in Barnstable County went to our curiosity web page to tell us, “We have a research project underway to see how we might be able to reduce this risk.”

We learned that it’s all about hitting the ticks where they live.

WBZ-TV’s David Wade reports

Deer ticks that carry Lyme disease are tiny, sometimes no bigger than a poppy seed, and they like nothing better than a blood meal.

“One bite from these things can change your life forever,” says Larry Dapsis, an entomologist at the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension in Barnstable.

He’s hoping a plastic contraption called the Four Poster Deer Feeding Station is part of the solution to a growing threat. It’s a rectangular box that holds dried corn. There are four small posts, two on each side of the base where the corn comes out. On each of those posts is something that looks like a paint roller that contains an insecticide. “When the deer come in to feed they’re going by this kind of paint roller setup and they’re picking up a small amount of insecticide on their neck and their ears. That’s designed to kill the adult ticks before they feed and lay thousands of eggs,” says Dapsis.

The Cooperative Extension is in the final stage of a three-year experiment funded by the Environmental Protection Agency. There are 42 of the units set up on the Cape and the islands, which are some of the worst regions for Lyme disease in the state.

There’s some indication that the experiment is working. “If you look at the impact of these feeding stations, the deer are pretty much clean if you were to examine them,” says Dapsis.

Information on how to remove a tick

They’ll crunch the final numbers in the fall, and if there’s a significant drop in the tick population, they can make a case for expanding the program. “It’s one more tool in the box,” says Dapsis. And the stakes are high. Several thousand people in Mass. come down with Lyme each year. It’s often tough to diagnose and tough to treat, and can damage your joints, your heart and your nervous system.

So if a little corn and a dash of bug killer can reduce the number of ticks, we’ll all be a little safer.

Even if the experiment proves effective there will be a number of questions to answer, most importantly, is it a cost effective way to battle ticks.

Of course, prevention is your best bet.

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