Use plant oil to fight ticks

July’s American Agriculturist reported that the Northeast is crawling with deer ticks. Consequently, it’s America’s hotbed for Lyme disease. New York is the No. 1 state in the nation for confirmed cases of Lyme disease. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Maryland fill out the top six states.

Aside from watching for the distinctive “bull’s-eye” rash signaling infection, there’s a new way to reduce risks. The Northeast Integrated Pest Management Center has funded projects aimed at protecting human health.

One is to use a food-grade blend of plant oils called IC2, containing mostly rosemary oil. “There’s nothing to prevent cattle or horses from grazing in a pasture sprayed with IC2,” assures Peter Rand, project leader at the Maine Medical Research Institute in South Portland. On the other hand, areas treated with many synthetic pesticides are off-limits to livestock for at least 12 hours. Applied at the height of tick season in 2008, IC2 was nearly as effective at controlling adult deer ticks as bifenthrin, Rand reports. And the decrease in ticks lasted into the following spring. IC2 is commercially available as EcoExempt IC2, a product of EcoSmart Technologies, Alpharetta, Ga.

“Our current research is addressing the question about non-target arthropods,” adds Rand. “That data is still being analyzed.

At this point, the Northeast IPM Center advice is that IC2, as applied to flowering plants, has no adverse immediate effect on bee abundance. But that’s only a preliminary conclusion, he cautions.

This article published in the October, 2010 edition of AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST.

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