Date of Award
Union College Only
Bachelor of Science
honeysuckle, tick, lonicera, lyme disease, disease, camera trapping
In recent years, the CDC has recorded a steady increase in the instance of tick-borne diseases, most notably Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. However, tick density and infection status are highly variable at both large and small spatial scales. Many potential explanations have been proposed to explain this, one of which is the alteration of vector-host dynamics caused by the introduction and propagation of invasive flora and fauna. Prior research has established a positive correlation between the abundance of several invasive shrub species in the genus Lonicera and the abundance of ticks. In this research, I tested several hypotheses to explain this. Two hypotheses, (i) that engorged ticks might benefit from fungicidal compounds released into the soil by Lonicera spp. (Honeysuckle) and (ii) that Lonicera shrub structure creates a favorable microhabitat for engorged tick survival, were tested in a soil core experiment. I compared tick survival in soil cores under four treatments: in Lonicera shrubs, in native Viburnum acerifolium (Mapleleaf Viburnum) shrubs, in climate-controlled rooms with Lonicera soil and extract, and in climate-controlled room with native soil and extract. The bioactive compound hypothesis was further examined in an experiment in which I compared fungal growth in Lonicera extract, V. acerifolium extract, and deionized water under laboratory conditions. A third hypothesis, that tick hosts prefer Lonicera shrubs for shelter, was tested in a camera trapping experiment. Although parts of the soil core experiment had to be abandoned due to the pandemic related lockdown of Union College, important insights can still be drawn. The two field treatments of the soil core experiment showed no differences in tick survival. Similarly, the fungal growth experiment did not reveal fungicidal properties in Lonicera compared to a native shrub control (V. acerifolium). Common tick hosts such as White-tailed Deer and White-footed Mice showed a slight preference for Lonicera shrubs compared to native shrubs. Altogether, this research emphasizes the unpredictability of biological invasions and the need for more integrative research into the role of invasive flora in vector-host dynamics and disease ecology.
Tran, Cato, "How does the Abundance of Invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) Increase Tick Density?" (2022). Honors Theses. 2571.