posted on 2021-02-25, 13:36authored byChristopher McCullough, Gina Angellela, Megan O'Rourke
Planting wildflowers is a commonly suggested measure to conserve pollinators. While beneficial for pollinators, plots of wildflowers may be inadvertently performing an ecosystem disservice by providing suitable habitat for arthropod disease vectors like ticks. The lone star tick, Amblyomma americanum (L)., is a medically important tick species that might be able to utilize wildflower plantings as suitable habitat. In this two-year study, ticks were sampled using dry-ice baited traps from wildflower plots, weedy field margins, and forested areas to determine if wildflower plantings were increasing the on-farm abundance of A. americanum. Abiotic and biotic environmental variables were also measured to better understand which factors affect A. americanum abundance. We found no more A. americanum in wildflower plots than in weedy field margins. Forested areas harbored the greatest number of A. americanum sampled. The height of vegetation in the sampled habitats was a significant factor in determining A. americanum abundance. Depending on the sampled habitat and life stage, this relationship can be positive or negative. The relationship to vegetation height may be related to the behavior of the white-tailed deer and the questing success of A. americanum. Overall, wildflower plots do not pose an increased risk of exposure to A. americanum on farms.