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Lyme Disease has a high incidence rate in the Northeast due to Black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) using humans as a blood meal. There has been a great deal of research done on different mechanisms of trying to control tick populations, and one such method of killing ticks may come in the form of entomopathogenic fungi. Beauveria bassiana is one of a few naturally occurring types of fungi that are pathogenic to ticks, and with a widespread application, could play a role in controlling populations. However, invasive Asian jumping worms, of the genera Amynthas and Metaphire, which have drastic impacts on forest floor ecosystems, are also spreading in the Northeast among other areas. In this senior project, I tested if jumping worms alter the amount of fungi in forest soils. I used mesocosms— bins containing forest soils—to mimic forest ecosystems. All mesocosms received applications of Beauveria bassiana, but only half of the mesocosms contained jumping worms. I tested for differences in fungal activity in soils with and without worms using a waxworm assay. I found no difference in the rate of waxworm mortality in the worm and no-worm soils. Further, the jumping worms did not influence soil parameters I measured, including leaf litter, although jumping worms are known to decimate litter on forest floors. It is possible that the fungi impact not only ticks but also jumping worms. More research is needed to understand the interaction between entomopathogenic fungi and jumping worms if widespread spraying is to occur.
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Nicolich, Ashley Rae, "Effects of Invasive Asian Jumping Worms on Entomopathogenic Fungi, a Biocontrol Agent for Tick Populations" (2020). Senior Projects Fall 2020. 40.
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