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Ticks are a global problem for humans, as they are vectors of diseases that affect both human and livestock health. In the eastern United States, black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are the vector of the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the agent which causes Lyme disease. Despite their importance in regards to human health, few predators of black-legged ticks have been identified. Despite a lack of evidence, the harvester ant P. barbatus and many other ant species have been thought to consume ticks. Ants are important as both invasive and keystone species, with widely-ranging impacts on the environments they live in and tick abundance. However, the relationship between ants and ticks is often understudied, with many species simply presumed to lower tick numbers via predation. Certain species of harvester ants of the genus Pogonomyrmex have been considered tick predators, even though evidence for this is lacking. In order to understand the relationship between Pogonomyrmex ants and black-legged ticks, I have conducted a series of feeding trials with mixed colonies of P. barbatus and P. badius in order to compare ant interaction and feeding behavior between I. scapularis and other food items. Over the course of these feeding trials, the harvester ant colonies never injured, killed, or consumed any black-legged ticks.
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Chapman, Brit, "Are harvester ants the tick predators we thought they were?" (2022). Senior Projects Spring 2022. 14.
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