North Haven Records Steep Decline in Tick Populations


Tick drags conducted this year for the Village of North Haven show a dramatic decline in the tick population at seven locations between June and October, during which time the village has deployed at least 15 “4-Poster” deer-feeding stations to apply permethrin to kill ticks on the heads and necks of deer as they feed on cracked corn.

The drags conducted at seven locations in late October by Chris Miller, a horticulturist who manages the village’s 4-Poster tick-reduction program, showed an 84-percent decline in the number of ticks collected compared to the numbers he found in June.

Mr. Miller collected a total of 918 ticks by dragging fabric through the ground cover and low vegetation at the seven sites on June 29 and 30; when he conducted drags in the same locations on October 25 and 26, he collected 161 ticks, according to his reports, which were released at Tuesday’s monthly meeting of the North Haven Village Board.

The ticks collected and counted in June included Lone Star nymphs and adults and black legged nymphs and adults. No nymphs of any kind, and no adult Lone Star ticks, were found in October. All of the ticks collected then were adult black legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which spread Lyme disease. Their numbers rose from 9 collected in June to 161 collected in October.

Generally, nymphs are more active earlier in the season and adults are more plentiful late in the season. Most cases of Lyme disease are reported in the summer, after people have been exposed to nymph-stage ticks, not adults, according to the Cornell College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Lone Star ticks, the larvae of which are often mistaken to chiggers, can cause an allergic reaction to mammalian meat knowns as “alpha gal.” They are known to spread ehrlichiosis, Rock Mountain spotted fever and tularemia.

Village Board members did not comment on the tick numbers at Tuesday’s meeting, although Mayor Jeff Sander did say that hunters — whom he reported have taken 52 deer since the village’s bow hunting season opened in late September — have found “no ticks” on the animals. He said the take was “the most we’ve done” in years.

North Haven has deployed 4-Posters at from 12 to 17 brushy and wooded public sites around the village for four years but had never established a database to gauge their effectiveness until this year.

“It’s hard to draw conclusions” from the tick-drag results, Mr. Miller commented in a phone interview on Wednesday. Seasonal variations in adult and nymph populations are normal. Although the drags showed a steep decline in the tick population from June to October, “We’d expect to see more black legged ticks” in the October sweeps, Mr. Miller said.

He noted these were the first drags ever conducted in conjunction with the 4-Poster program and “they are more a baseline for the future” than meaningful alone. Mayor Sander said Tuesday night that he will be very interested to compare next June’s drag numbers to those for June 2019.

The 4-Poster was developed by United States Department of Agriculture scientists in the early 1990s to stop an outbreak of babesiosis on Texas cattle. They have four vertically mounted paint rollers that apply a 10-percent solution of permethrin tickicide to the heads and necks of deer as they feed on corn.

Deer are the primary host for adult deer or black-legged ticks, which carry babesiosis and Ehrlichiosis and other diseases in addition to Lyme and concentrate around the animals’ ears and necks.

Because adult ticks have a two- to three-year life cycle, it takes three years before the effectiveness of a 4-Poster program becomes fully evident. The devices also must be deployed by the early spring and kept in place through late fall; and carefully maintained and monitored, particularly for corn consumption, which determine when the rollers must be recharged with permethrin solution. Clogged or damaged devices, or deployment too late in the season or removal too early, can dramatically limit their effectiveness.

In other business at Tuesday’s meeting, the Village Board:

  • Again discussed developing legislation to ban gasoline-powered leaf blowers for at least part of the year. Mayor Sander urged board members to study legislation in the villages of East Hampton and Southampton and decide if it should be a model for North Haven. “Maybe we can do that by the next meeting and get something done by the end of the year,” he said.
  • Again discussed adjusting the village’s property rental regulations to set two-week as a minimum rental and adding funding to next year’s budget to provide for the hiring of a part-time code enforcement officer, someone “who can issue a summons and go to court” to enforce the rules, the mayor said.
  • Discussed plans to add drains on five village roads: Fahys, Baldwin, Tyndall, Thistle Patch and Bayberry.
  • Discussed the drafting of a coastal erosion policy to prevent erosion by encouraging a “soft approach,” Mayor Sander said, including grading, plantings and stabilizing cover material, with “hard structures” such as bulkheads a last resort.
  • Agreed to allow the East Hampton Historical Farm Museum to use Village Hall on two days in December to present a history of the Furnam property on Actors Colony Road, which has a history associated with silent filmmaking.
  • Agreed to spend $6,200 for a new Village Hall phone system, which includes a battery backup in case of power failures.