Visit to ‘The Connecticut Agricultural Experimental Station(CAES)’

We travelled from Portland to Connecticut , this would not have been possible without GPS.

To use our UK phone network would have cost too much and we were advised to purchase a USA SIM card- this was great advice!. For 30 days we have unlimited data and phone and it cost $55, this has allowed us to travel using google maps for guidance.

Any way my visit to Connecticut, when Chuck made contact with his colleagues in Connecticut, we were told that the department were giving a presentation so it seemed like a good day to arrive. An added bonus was that Pizza, salad and Coffee was available for those who attended the meeting, evidently a good tactic to achieve high attendance.

I am pictured here with my hosts at the centre

Kirby Stafford (Chief Entomologist/State Entomologist), Megan Linske (Research Scientist) and Scott Williams (Research Scientist) I am very grateful to them for giving me their time to speak about some of the projects they are involved in.

Scott gave the talk and spoke about some of the projects:

* Invasive plant and tick associations

* Micro climate effects on tick survival

* Tick overwintering project (in conjunction with Maine Medical Research Centre)

* Hard mast abundance influences (acorn abundance)

* Host density and diversity- looking at competency and incompetency and small mammals and comparing residential areas with woodland areas

Without doubt ticks are increasing on the landscape and there is much historical and newly acquired data, which can be used to predict hotspots. Once the tick hotspots are identified decisions can then be made bout the most effective interventions.

Kirby very kindly gave me a copy of one of his many publications

This book contains information of many of the projects they have undertaken

Small mammal (rodent and white footed mouse) trapping to look at tick abundance

Cameras used to look at residential and woodland host density

Small bait boxes- where the animals are attracted in for food and in the process have to rub against sponges impregnated with tick treatment

Deer reduction and management schemes have also been tested there are many papers published that provide evidence of how effective this can be however one of the problems is maintaining the reduced herd size.

Peter Rands book discussess the eradication of deer from Monhegan Island

Management of vegetation

Leaf litter- which looks so pretty, its looks like confetti-Play the video

Leaf litter provides a very good habitat for ticks

In 2007-2016 the centre were involved in management of Japanese barberry, looking at ground cover estimates, dragging for adult scapularis ticks and rodents and looking at the use of treatments to kill the plant. Treating yards with fungicide has also been tested. All of the methods have been found to be effective to a point and used in combination can be more so. Centres like this are at the forefront off testing.

More information on the centres activities can be found at:

Four Posters- deer feeding/treatment method

On my visit I was able to observe the setting up of four posters.

Similarly to the small mammal bait boxes, this is a method used to attract deer to feed and during the feeding they rub against the permethrin impregnated rollers

Impregnating the rollers

Megan, Scott, DA and Mike Short (research assistant) setting up the four posters

There are restrictions that have to be adhered to when setting up the four posters, they have to be 100 yards or more away from houses. Children and pets should not be allowed near them. The sites were selected when the team sent mailers to all the homes in the community they were targeting for initiatives. The home owners who volunteer their area have to also take some responsibility for keeping people away from the site. Warning notices are also displayed.

Once set up the centre part has corn inserted on which the deer will feed

The deer will have to insert their heads between the two rollers to access the corn, the team monitor the sites weekly while they are being used which is usually in the winter, throughout the summer there is ample vegetation for the deer to feed on and they would be unlikely to look elsewhere for food.

Over wintering project

This is a collaborative project with Maine Medical Research Centre and has been active since 2015.

Ticks are placed in the ground in pots in a random block design, with mobile data and temperature loggers

Throughout the winter the pots are kept in one of four combinations

* Leaf and snow removal

* No leaf removal and snow removal

* Leaf removal and no snow removal

* No leaf, no snow removal

The study is looking to identify how the ticks cope in each of the combinations.

Lone star tick

Many people I have spoken to in the USA speak about this Lone star tick Amblyomma americanum, it is the most common tick in the southeastern US and it is started to move through the states it has not been detected in Portland Maine yet but is abundant in Connecticut.

The female is distinctive with the dot on its body-see below…

Most ticks will wait for some one to pass by and attach to them, the lone start does not it seeks out hosts, it will move toward movement and sound.

The bite of the lone star tick is associated with an allergy to red meat. A delayed anaphylaxis develops in individuals that have previously consumed red meat without difficulty, this appears to be due to sensitisation to galactose-a-1, 3-galactose (alpha -gal), a sugar carbohydrate found in beef, lamb and pork but not humans. After a tick bite people may develop antibodies to alpha-gal and can have an allergic reaction upon subsequently eating red meat, The reaction occurs 4-8 hours after consuming the meat and may consist of itching, hives, swelling of the throat and anaphylactic shock.

When I first arrived at CAES I noticed a sign and made a mental note to ask about it before I left:

The general public are offered the opportunity to bring ticks that have bitten them to the Lab for testing. In the height of the summer they can have up to 100 ticks taken in every day. 2017 saw around 5000 ticks tested, we were at the Lab on 24th October and 3 ticks had been handed in.

The ticks are tested for Borrelia, Babesiosis and Anaplasma and if the tick is positive for any of the bacteria’s the Lab staff commit to contacting the person to inform them that the tick was positive and that they should seek medical advice with regard to receiving appropriate treatment.

Pictured are (L-R) -Doug Vuong (seasonal research assistant), Alex Diaz (research technician) and Goudarz Molaei (Research scientist and Director of tick testing program).


CAES is located in New Haven, which is also the location of Yale University, we took the opportunity to have a look around the expansive campus.


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