Three Biology Students Publish Tick Population Study

Posted on 9/6/2015 10:14:05 PM

Undergraduate students James Shea and Rebecca Kruise, graduate student Michele Myers-Claypole, professor of biology Tom Simmons, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) Vector Management entomologist Mike Hutchinson published the article “Seasonal Activity, Density, and Collection Efficiency of the Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis) (Acari: Ixodidae) in Mid-Western Pennsylvania” in the Journal of Medical Entomology on September 3, 2015.

The research team found that the abundance and seasonality of blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) in mid-western Pennsylvania are now comparable to southeastern New York State, where the tick and Lyme disease are highly endemic.

The researchers surveyed public conservation lands in Indiana County for blacklegged ticks. They then followed the seasonal activity of larvae, nymphs, and adults for over a year, and determined the highest densities for each stage in Blue Spruce County Park. Earlier this year PADEP Vector Management and IUP scientists also published in the Journal of Medical Entomology a statewide survey of ticks infected with Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease. This previous study showed high levels of infection throughout the state. These two publications taken together document that the risk of being bitten by an infected tick in western Pennsylvania and the coastal northeastern United States are not substantially different. The researchers concluded that the high Lyme disease risk in western Pennsylvania has occurred since 2000, while the high risk on the coast developed during the 1980s and 1990s.

James Shea (’14) is in his first year of study at the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, Rebecca Kruise (’16) is in her senior year at IUP majoring in environmental health, and Michelle Myers-Claypole (’14) is a full-time faculty member at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College.

Follow these links to view the statewide survey published in the Journal of Medical Entomology and the mid-western PA population study.

Dr. Simmons with students in lab Simmons Shea Tick Dragging

Department of Biology