As many of us know, ticks are a huge problem in our area. They aid in the transmission of a range of diseases including Lyme Disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Erlichiosis, Powassan Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever just to name a few. In other words, ticks are a serious public health pest. Of these tick-borne illnesses, it is Lyme Disease that many Long Islanders are most concerned with.
Did you know that there are specific plants that aid in the spread of ticks and Lyme Disease?
Scientists have shown that the presence of Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii) may have a direct connection to the growing spread of Lyme Disease. The Japanese Barberry, first brought to the US in the late 1800’s, is today considered an invasive species. Planted as an attractive landscape shrub, the Japanese Barberry can crowd out native plant life and act as a hotbed for Lyme Disease.
The Japanese Barberry makes an excellent shelter for the White-footed mouse. These mice are easy prey for immature ticks, or nymphs, who need a blood meal. The shrub is also a perfect habitat for ticks themselves. The Japanese Barberry creates a high humidity, low sunlight environment that increases the survival rate of ticks by up to 50%. Since the mice can carry the B. burgdorferi bacteria which causes Lyme Disease, up to 95% of ticks who feed on these mice become infected. The infected ticks, because of the favorable conditions created by the Barberry, can remain in the shrub for upwards of a year waiting for their next blood meal!
Common hosts for ticks include mice, deer and humans. Not only are deer potential hosts for ticks, but they also may eat the surrounding vegetation around the Japanese Barberry giving it more space to grow. Remember, as a highly invasive species, the Barberry spreads rapidly, thus increasing its prevalence and that of infected ticks.
Removal of the Japanese Barberry can be an effective strategy in any integrated pest management approach for ticks. However, due to its ability to host potentially infected ticks, it is important take care when handling the Japanese Barberry. Talk with your landscape professional about the safe removal of Japanese Barberry from your home today.