Identifying ways in which humans can reduce tick populations is important for preventing the spread and emergence of diseases. During a recent study on effects of long-term prescribed burning on ticks, differences in species composition were observed with lone star ticks, Amblyomma americanum (L.), preferring unburned habitats and Gulf Coast ticks, Amblyomma maculatum (Koch), preferring burned habitats. Interestingly, the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta Buren, is found predominantly in disturbed habitats, such as burned habitats, and studies have reported that red imported fire ants prey on lone star ticks. To better understand drivers of tick population differences in burned habitats, the current study was conducted to evaluate the effects of red imported fire ant and habitat on survival of lone star and Gulf Coast ticks. Within treatments (burned habitat with red imported fire ants, burned habitat without red imported fire ants, and unburned habitat without red imported fire ants), 10 tick enclosures were installed and seeded with engorged lone star or Gulf Coast tick nymphs. After molting, ticks within enclosures were collected. Survival of lone star ticks in burned habitats (regardless of red imported fire ant presence) was significantly lower compared with unburned habitat. Gulf Coast ticks had significantly greater survival in burned habitats (regardless of red imported fire ant presence) compared with lone star ticks. In this study, burning status was more important for survival of ticks than presence of red imported fire ants, with Gulf Coast ticks surviving better in burned habitat that typically experiences higher temperatures and lower humidity.
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Vol. 50 • No. 2