About the study

In the northeastern United States, blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) transmit several germs known to cause human disease and are a major public health concern. Blacklegged ticks transmit the germs of Lyme disease, which is estimated to infect approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. each year.  These same ticks can transmit the germs that cause babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus, and relapsing fever in humans.

Many human-tick encounters occur in backyards that border forests and brushy areas where ticks thrive.  This study seeks to test a new combination of tick control methods in backyards.  Unlike some residential tick management strategies that use a single tick control method, this study will test an integrated tick management approach.

Integrated tick management (ITM) is an approach to managing ticks that uses two or more tactics to reduce tick populations. The advantage of ITM is that if one approach fails to reduce tick populations, the other approach is in place to enhance the first approach.  ITM also reduces the likelihood of ticks developing resistance to the control methods.

The primary objective of the Backyard Integrated Tick Management Study is to compare the effectiveness of an ITM approach at single-treated residential properties vs. contiguously-treated residential properties to reduce tick abundance and the incidence of tickborne disease. Because ticks can be moved around an area by wildlife like rodents and deer, there may be a benefit to treating larger areas vs. single properties.  This study will evaluate an ITM approach that includes the application of a single pesticide spray combined with the installation of rodent-targeted bait boxes placed in yards.  This approach aims to kill immature ticks before they can attach to humans and transmit disease-causing agents.  The secondary objective of this study is to gain a better understanding of where people encounter ticks, both near their homes and in other outdoor settings.

Study design

This study will include 230 residential properties in western Connecticut and southern Rhode Island.  These two regions were chosen for the study because many people in these areas live in homes with yards that border tick habitat, and many cases of Lyme and other tickborne diseases have been reported from these areas.

In each state, participants will be randomly assigned to one of three study groups and will not know to which group they have been assigned:

Group 1) single properties receiving the ITM treatment of a single pesticide spray and placement of rodent-targeted bait boxes,

Group 2) a cluster of contiguously-treated adjacent properties receiving a single pesticide spray and placement of rodent-targeted bait-boxes, or

Group 3) properties receiving a placebo treatment of water spray and inactive bait boxes.

Studies have shown that targeted residential tick sprays and rodent bait boxes have been effective for reducing tick populations, but they have never been tested using the design of this study. We would like to know if this combination of tactics in single or grouped properties is effective to reduce tick populations and tickborne disease.

Our goal is to find effective management practices that can be recommended to homeowners and that can reduce Lyme and other tickborne diseases in the northeastern United States.