Opossums have come to be seen as one thing of a savior species in terms of eradicating ticks. From web sites to publications to social media, the concept that opossums assist save humans from tick-borne ailments is all over.
“Among the finest issues about [opossums] although, they eat ticks…which helps reduce on Lyme Illness within the atmosphere,” in line with a video on pbs.org. Or, “opossums act like little vacuum cleaners in terms of ticks—with a single opossum hoovering up and killing an estimated 5,000 ticks in a season,” says the National Wildlife Federation.
The claims are fairly spectacular, however are they true?
In keeping with Dr. Bret Collier, affiliate professor of wildlife ecology at Louisiana State College’s Faculty of Renewable Pure Assets, “No, under no circumstances, interval. Ticks should not, in any method, chosen for by Virginia opossums.” He cites a 2021 peer-reviewed paper known as “Are Virginia opossums really ecological traps for ticks? Groundtruthing laboratory operations,” by Dr. Cecilia Hennessy and Kaitlyn Hild of Eureka Faculty’s Division of Science and Arithmetic.
Origins Of The Opossum-Consuming-Ticks Principle
The assertions associated to the tick-destroying powers of opossums largely hint again to an August 2009 printed research within the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, known as “Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease.”
In that research, researchers in New York positioned six captured species of small mammals and birds (white-footed mice, chipmunks, grey squirrels, opossums, catbirds, and veeries) into cages after which “inoculated” them on their heads and necks with 100 larval ticks. For the following 4 days—the period of time deemed enough within the research for a tick to gorge and drop off a bunch—researchers counted the variety of ticks that fell from the cages into a group pan. Any ticks not accounted for instantly had been assumed to have been consumed or destroyed because the animals groomed themselves.
Squirrels and the half-dozen opossums within the research appeared to rid themselves of essentially the most ticks, allegedly killing 83 to 96.5 % of the ticks, with the opossums on the upper finish of the size. From these numbers, individuals extrapolated that opossums can eat as much as 5,500 ticks every season, making them an “ecological lure” for ticks and a “web reducer” of the parasites.
The Proof Towards Opossums Consuming Ticks
In keeping with Collier, the 2009 research checked out captive opossums, whereas Hennessy and Hild’s later work targeted on wild ones. “[Hennessy and Hild’s] paper reviewed all of the science—23 papers in all—on opossum foraging, abdomen contents, and scat,” says Collier.
Within the 2021 research, Hennessy and Hild used a dissecting microscope to search for ticks or tick physique elements within the stomachs of 32 Virginia opossums from central Illinois. They discovered completely no proof of ticks and concluded that ticks should not a most popular food plan merchandise for opossums.
So, The place Did The Ticks Go within the 2009 Examine?
Hennessy and Hild level out that the 2009 researchers assumed animal grooming habits should have occurred within the lab as a result of the larval ticks weren’t collected within the cage set-up. They questioned, although, whether or not 4 days was a protracted sufficient time for the larval ticks to feed and drop off, noting that issues such because the room’s temperature and the animals’ physique temperature can have an effect on the length of tick feeding.
In keeping with Hennessey and Hild, the 2009 researchers didn’t examine the opossums for ticks earlier than releasing them from captivity, having assumed that any tick nonetheless alive would have fed and dropped to the holding tray beneath the animals. “It’s doable that ticks might have nonetheless been embedded and feeding on the opossums upon launch,” the report says.
“This physique of memes turned out to be an especially profitable advocacy marketing campaign for the opossum; permitting the oft-maligned scavenger to attain cult standing as a biocontrol for ticks,” the report concludes. “Sadly, these purported advantages should not supported by our findings or by earlier food plan analyses,” including that it’s nonetheless doable to understand opossums—even when they’re not the little tick vacuum cleaners they had been cracked as much as be.