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Lyme Disease Prevention Program

2014 MIFD Lyme Disease
Prevention Program

The goal of the MIFD Lyme Disease Prevention Program is to encourage universal tick control by providing a program attractive to constituents based on effectiveness, affordability and ecological neutrality.

The MIFD Program includes a choice of two selected vendors outlined in the options listed below.  The first vendor is SeaScape Inc. (www.seascapeinc.com) who offers a program using Bifenthrin, a granular chemical proven to be effective in controlling tick populations.  The second vendor is BioTech Pest Controls (www.saferyardcare.com), a company who offers an organic tick control choice. 
(Missing from the MIFD options is the Max Force Tick Box Program (www.nixticks.com) offered by CT Tick Control.  They have declined to participate in our program.  But, we continue to support the Max Force Tick Box Program as a safe, vector specific an effective form of tick control.)  We encourage you to research each option to help you make an informed decision.  Any further questions may be directed to Mary McAuley. 

Earlier this year, MIFD residents were asked to sign up for any one of the following three options. For those who chose to participate, the cost of their chosen option was billed as a supplemental “tick tax” due March 31, 2014.  For those who chose NOT to participate, no supplemental “tick tax” was billed. 

SeaScape Inc. will provide 3 applications of Bifenthrin for a total cost of $190 per property.  If you chose Option I, you will be billed $190 as a supplemental “tick tax” due March 31, 2014.  Bifenthrin is a broad based insecticide with proved effectiveness in controlling ticks.  It will be applied to the perimeter of each property excluding all wet lands. 

BioTech Pest Controls will provide 2 applications of Ecotrol EC and Ecopco G for a total cost of $225.  If you choose Option II, you will be billed $225 as a supplemental “tick tax” due March 31, 2014.  Ecotrol and Ecopco are organic based insecticides with Rosemary and Peppermint Oil as active ingredients. 

  • Option III:  Do Not Participate

If you choose not to participate in the MIFD Lyme Disease Prevention program, you were not taxed.  You are, however, encouraged to pursue an alternative method of tick control on your property.  The more universal our tick control efforts, the more effective our program will be for all Mason’s Island residents.

II: Current Status:

In early February of this year, MIFD residents received a series of emails and a letter from the Lyme Disease Prevention Committee including an attachment with a cover letter and sign up sheet.  We received a total of 168 responses to our mailing, representing an 91% response rate.  This response rate was up from last year (87%) and our historic average of 79%.   Results are as follows:

  • SeaScape Lawn Care Inc. and BioTech Pest Control will be treating a total of 118 properties this year down from 110 last year.  This represents roughly 58% of the properties in the Fire District. 
  • Another 21 property owners reported they had engaged in some other form of Tick control.
  • This brings the total number of MIFD properties with tick control to 137 or 68% of properties up from 136 last year

This coverage rate compares favorably the prior three years and is consistent with our historic average of 67%.  For those of you who have chosen not treated your properties, I would ask you to please consider engaging in some form of tick control.  As I have mentioned before, the more universal our tick control is, the more we are all protected from Lyme and other tick borne diseases. 

SeaScape completed the first application of the MIFD tick control program on May 14th. There will be two additional SeaScape applications this season; one in mid to late summer and one in early fall.  Bio Tech completed their first application on May 6th and will do one more in late fall.

  

III:  The 4-Poster Program:

I am pleased to report we are currently 5 ½ years into our scientific study of the use of the “4-Poster” Deer Treatment System on Mason’s Island.  Preliminary data incidecate the 4-poster Program, begun in the fall of 2008, has significantly enhanced and will hopefully allow us to replace our current Lyme Disease Prevention Program. 

For those of you who are new to the island, the “4-Poster” system is designed to kill the adult ticks on deer’s ears, heads, necks, and shoulders where 90% of adult ticks are attached.  The device uses corn to attract deer and, as the deer feed on the corn, they rub their head against EPA approved pesticide-impregnated rollers just like what you put on your dogs each month.  Additional information on the 4-poster Deer Treatment System is available at http://www.aldf.com/fourPoster2.shtml.

We obtained the first and only permit ever issued from the CT DEP to implement the “4-Poster” program in May 2008.  We are very excited about this as studies have shown that use of the “4-poster” technology has resulted in a reduction in tick populations of 92% to 98%.  So far on Mason's Island, our tick density rates have declined by 73% since we initiated the program 5 years ago.  This compares very favorably to our control site, Black Point whose tick density ratios are over 6 times that or ours.  Our hope is to replace the current MIFD tick control program with the “4-poster” program.  However, I'm so pleased with the effectiveness of what we are doing, I'm worried about changing anything.  Also, this will depend on the effectiveness of the new program.  Happily, we have a concrete means of determining as outlined below. 

IV: Scientific Study:

Our CT DEP permit was approved subject to our participation in a scientific study.  The CT DEP, the CT Agriculture Experiment Station and MIFD are conducting this study jointly.  The study will determine the effects of the “4-Poster” Program on tick populations, tick infection rates, cases of Lyme Disease, and the effects on deer populations. 

Originally, this study was a 3-year study.  The CT DEP has agreed to extend the term of the study as they have found preliminary results effective but not conclusive.  The devices were deployed at various designated locations throughout Masons Island.  Each year beginning in the fall of 2008, the devises have been deployed from October 1 through December 1 and March 1 thru the end of May.  Data are being collected on acorn production, tick and deer populations at both Masons Island where the 4-poster devices are being used and Black Point as a “Control Site”.  Collecting data before and after use of the 4-poster system combined with data collected from the “Control Site” will allow researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of the 4-poster devices.  Data is being collected in the following areas:

 

  • Acorn surveys are being conducted annually to quantify acorn production as this may influence deer use of the 4-poster devices and deer populations.
  • Ticks are sampled by dragging a piece of fleece on the ground along walking trails, stone walls, yard edges and through open forest at the treated and Control Sites.  The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station examines all captured ticks to assess infection rates.
  • Deer populations are being tracked.  Overhead and Spotlight surveys have been conducted to determine the size of the deer herd and assess the number of fawns produced per doe.  Evaluating changes in the fawn/doe ratio will provide insight into how supplemental feed, used to attract deer to the 4-poster device, may affect deer herd health.  This data must be evaluated in conjunction with the acorn production data.
  • Cases of Tick Borne Diseases are being counted.  Our MIFD annual surveys have recorded the number of cases of Lyme disease in the community to document changes in the number resulting from the program.
  • Preliminary results of the program are as follows.  However, without several additional years of data points, reliable conclusions cannot be drawn.  Upon receipt, I will update the chart below.

                      Mason’s Island

 

Year

Tick Density

% Ticks Positive

Human Cases of Lyme

Fawns:

Doe Ratio

2008

1.65

30%

15 (7.9%)

.36

2009

2.6

31%

8 (4.3%)

.86

2010

.79

15%

6 (3.4%)

1.5

2011

.75

13%

4 (2.2%)

1.1

2012
.70
NA
1 (1.1%)
NA
2013        

Tick Density = Ticks / 100 meters

Cases of Lyme Disease are grossed up to account for non-respondents         

Black Point (Control Site)

 

Year

Tick Density

% Ticks Positive

Human Cases of Lyme

Fawns:

Doe Ratio

2008

5.7

39%

NA

.71

2009

5.8

26%

NA

.38

2010

5.7

8%

NA

.33

2011

2.6

26%

NA

.50

2012
4.26
NA
NA
NA
2013        

 

Tick Density = Ticks / 100 meters        Source: CT DEP

 

The CT DEP has indicated we will need additional data to reach any conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the 4-posters and the impact of the program on deer populations.  However, preliminary data seems to support a few early conclusions.       

            

  1. Data collected since 2008 supports the effectiveness of our current MIFD program in controlling tick populations.  There have been significantly more ticks collected at the control site than on Masons Island in all years since 2008. 
  2. We have continued to control the number of cases of Lyme Disease contracted on Mason’s Island.  While we do not have control site (Black Point) information on this, our year-to-year comparison seems to warrant continuation of the program. There was 1 reported cases of Lyme or other tick borne diseases during the summer of 2012.  This compares favorably to prior years. 
  3. There appears to be a strong correlation between the tick populations and the number of deer on the island, i.e. the more deer we have, the more ticks we have.  From February 2008 to March 2009 the estimated size of the deer herd appeared to have increased and the number of ticks collected increased by about 60%.  This increase in tick population also correlates to an interruption in our tick control program.  The DEP was unable to conduct a reliable deer surveys for 2011 or 2012.  Spotlight counts were conducted both years to estimate Doe/Fawn ratios. 
  4. The Fawn to Doe ratio on Masons Island has increased from 2008.  This is likely the result of better fed deer due to the 4-poster program.  Other factors may include more abundant acorn production during 2009 and 2010 and our desirable ecosystem for deer populations.  Weather conditions during the winters of 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 were insufficient to conduct aerial deer counts (either no snow, or snow melted too quick, or it rained, or it was too windy after the snow.)  Therefore, we do not have Fawn:Doe ratio information for 2012.  That being said, in talking to residents, they all indicated that there seemed to be fewer deer in the community.  That was also the general trend the CT DEP observed from spotlight counts.  Ideally based on the size of the island, the DEP recommends a herd size of between 4 and 10 for our island.  This recommendation is based not only on reducing the risk of contracting Lyme disease but also to prevent the deer from damaging native plant communities.  Because the DEP was unable to conduct an overhead count we do not have a total deer count for 2011 or 2012. 

 

This data demonstrates our program is effective and successfully keeping a lid on the problem.  However, it is important we do not let our guard down.  I can’t urge you enough to take all possible precautions.  This is a very serious disease, particularly for those with compromised immune systems.

Size of Island
The island is between 1/3rd and 1/2 sq miles.  To take the conservative approach, let’s assume it is 1/2 sq miles.  If there are about 24 deer on 1/2 square miles, that is equivalent to 48 deer / square mile. 

Recommended deer densities
- To prevent deer from damaging native plant communities = 12-20 deer/sq mile
- To significantly reduce human risk of contracting Lyme Disease (with no 4-poster devices) = 8-10 deer/sq mile

Deer Herd Management Program
The CT DEP strongly recommends we institute a deer management program which would reduce our current herd down to about 10 and maintain this level by taking 2-3 deer per year thereafter.  This can be done through a bow hunting program, administered by the CT DEP.  It is up to individual property owners to contact the CT DEP and sign a Consent Form, copies of which are available through Linda Watkins.  Managing our deer population will further increase the effectiveness and decrease the cost of the 4-poster program.

V: Cost:

The cost of the entire 4-poster program is roughly $7,500 - $12,000 per year.  Assuming we will be able to replace our current program with the 4-poster program, this compares very favorably with the $25,000 per year residents are currently spending on tick control.  We currently don't have conclusive scientific evidence whether the program works or not. It is therefore very important we continue treating our properties for ticks until we have final results from our scientific study on the effectiveness of the “4-poster” Program.  

VI:  The Survey:

In prior years, we have conducted extensive resident surveys regarding the Lyme Tick Prevention Program.  The surveys have provided us with critical information regarding your thoughts on this important issue.  In general, the survey underscored that the vast majority of residents are very much in favor of an island wide tick control program.  Many of you would prefer a more vector specific program such as the tick boxes, however, you understand that a high level of participation is critical to the overall effectiveness of any program.  One of the survey suggestions was that we use the MIPOA website to distribute information.   Toward that end, I have posted specific survey responses there for any of you that are interested.  Also included are answers to frequently asked questions.   I would encourage you all to scan the site at your convenience.  
.

  • A total of 136 (75%) property owners out of 182 responded to the survey.
  • Of those who chose not to go with the MIFD program, the reasons sited were they prefer either the tick boxes or other tick control vendors or methods such as brush clearing and mouse traps.  Some were concerned about the use of a chemical pesticide in general.  A few residents don’t believe the program works or don’t spend much time on the island.  Finally, expense was sited as a reason for not participating.
  • Of those who chose not to participate in any form of tick control (16), the reasons cited included those outlined above.  In addition, two residents don’t believe the program is necessary, as they hadn’t had a problem with ticks.  Conversely, there was one resident who did not treat their property because they felt they were going to get sick anyway. Some felt the MIFD program would not be effective for their property due to location, topography or property size.
  • Suggestions on how we can improve the program were concentrated on getting the boxes back at a reasonable cost and to further increasing participation.  Most of you prefer a more vector specific form of tick control, however, cost is a huge consideration for this constituency.  Everyone seems to understand that low participation significantly reduces the effectiveness of any program.  The lower the cost, the higher the level of participation.  A summary of your other suggestions include:
      • Include pros and cons for each of the options.
      • Have vendors contact property owners prior to application.
      • Everyone should use the organic method.
      • Reduce the number of deer on the island.
      • Push the tick boxes more regardless of cost.
      • Add rodent control to the program.
      • Treat Allyn’s Alley area, around the bench, marsh and dock.
      • We need a coordinated effort to clean up overgrown weeds, lawn, debris etc. that is thrown out along the trails & Old South extension.  The mice infest these piles of debris.
      • Bring in wild turkey/chickens to eat ticks.
      • Require participation and/or continue to encourage all property owners to participate.
      • Distribute a list of who does not participate so we can lobby them to join.
      • Invite North End of Island to participate.
      • We need to remove brush and debris piles near trails, pond, Old South extension, etc.  We need to ensure MIFD cuts back grasses, brush, etc. regularly.
      • Include literature on how to manage ticks on your property - See for example the 2005 Fact Sheet from the CT Dept. of Agriculture.
      • Stop using pesticides.  Focus on controlling deer & mice, maintaining ecological integrity of island through landscaping practices healthy.
      • Education
      • More education on the hazards of broad bases insecticide, especially those suffering from ill-health. 
      • Continue 4-poster program
      • Communicate % of property owners doing tick control and cases of Lyme on MI.
      • Publish map of untreated properties
      • Encourage all to clear debris and brush
      • Do away with it!  Promote a Safe habitat to encourage a variety of birds that feed on ticks.

VII: Research:

We have continued to research the whole issue of Tick Control with the goal of developing the best possible community wide program.  Our primary program criteria is 1) effectiveness 2) cost and 3) environmental considerations.  We have had extensive conversations with various tick scientists asking for guidance as to how to proceed including Dr. Kirby Stafford, Vice Director and Chief Entomologist with the CT Department of Entomology and the CT Agricultural Experiment Station, Dr. Thomas Mather, the Director of the URI Center for Vector Borne Diseases and Dr. Mat Pound, Research Entomologist for the Knipling-Bushland US Livestock Insects Research Laboratory out of Kerry Texas.  All have recommended tick avoidance, which they refer to as "Integrated Tick Management" (ITM) or "Integrated Pest Management of Ticks" (IPM).   This refers to a collection of solutions that operates in tandem.   For homeowners, they recommend creating a tick-safe zone on their landscapes.   Further reommendations are as follows:

    • Do Something!
    • Selectively use insecticides combined with a comprehensive property management program.
    • Continue to exercise good tick management techniques:
      • Treat pets with tick control products.
      • Wear protective clothing and shower after working outside.
      • Check yourselves, your children and your pets frequently for ticks and tick bites. 
      • Eliminate tick habitats from your properties by removing leaves, brush and debris.
      • Keep areas under bird feeders clean.
      • Refrain from feeding the deer.
      • Control the deer population.
    • Most importantly, have an organized comprehensive approach to the problem.

VIII: Going Forward:

Our plan is to continue with the MIFD program through the summer of 2014.  In the meantime, we will complete the 4-poster program and monitor the results of the scientific study. 

IX: Frequently Asked Questions:

Q:  Why can’t we get the Max Force Tick Boxes back?
A:  In 2006, we received a quote from CT Tick Control to provide Max Force Tick Boxes for the entire island.  The quote was $168,000 which was considered by MIPOA resident to be cost prohibitive.  Residents instead voted to treat their properties individually.  We subsequently developed the existing MIFD Lyme Disease Prevention Program.  We have asked CT Tick Control to participate in our program but they have declined.  We have asked if they would be willing to negotiate a group discounted price to no avail.  The Max Force Tick Boxes are available for purchase directly from CT Tick Control.  Individuals who are interested should contact CT Tick Control directly at 1-888-649-8452 or www.nixticks.com.

Q:  We would like to know the dates of application and an explanation of why those dates were chosen.
A:   The exact dates of application of both SeaScape and BioTech treatments are a function of weather and vendor schedules.  There will be three SeaScape applications.  The first application will be in early spring when the tick season begins.  If we have an early spring they will come in late April.  If the weather remains cold, they will push the treatment back to early May.  Each application lasts approximately 3 months.  The second application will be in late July and the final application will be in Oct/Nov.  BioTech will apply two treatments, one in early spring and the second in late fall.  Applications are designed to span the entire tick season.  Some of you have asked to know specifically when your properties will be treated.  Unfortunately, this information is difficult to provide as treatments are weather dependent (no rain) and advance scheduling would be an administrative burden which would add to the cost of treatment.  

Q: Biotech also has rodent control.  They also carry the ticks.  Have you looked into it? 
A: Mice do indeed carry ticks and are the responsible vector for infecting deer ticks with the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease.  We encourage all residents to do what you can to control the mice population on your properties provided your methodology does not poison the birds that eat the mice.  We believe the BioTech mice control meets those specifications.  However, we encourage you to check with them prior to using their rodent control on your property.

Q: Can we organize an Island wide Deer Hunt?
A: The CT DEP strongly recommends we institute a deer management program which would reduce our current herd down to about 10 and maintain this level by taking 2-3 deer per year thereafter.  This can be done through a bow hunting program, administered by the CT DEP.  It is up to individual property owners to contact the CT DEP and sign a Consent Form, copies of which are available through Linda Watkins. 

 

 
 
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