University of Wisconsin–Madison

Targeting mice

One method to reduce tick abundance is to target the mice that serve as important hosts for the ticks as well as sources of the Lyme spirochete and other pathogens. To do this, white-footed and deer mice are treated with an insecticide that kills any ticks that attach to them. This is very similar to what you might do with your dog, when you purchase a product for application on the back to prevent fleas and ticks.

There are two ways to get the insecticide onto the mouse’s fur.  One way is to provide a nest material that has been treated with the insecticide. There are commercially available products called “Tick Tubes” (Dammnix Tick Tubes or Thermacell Tick Control Tubes) that can be used for this.  Our trials suggest that the abundance of ticks on mice is reduced by this treatment and, the year after the tubes were placed, there were fewer questing nymphs in the treated plots.  Over several years, we saw about 20-60% reduction in the density of the infected nymphs in treated versus control plots.  Research in other parts of the country has showed variable results: sometimes use of the tubes correlated with reduced abundance of ticks and sometimes there was no impact.  This may be due to the presence of other animals that can feed ticks, including chipmunks and shrews.

The second way to get insecticides onto the fur is through the use of baitboxes.  Baitboxes provide a food bait to lure the mouse through a chamber where it brushes under a wick containing the insecticide. Use of baitboxes requires a certified pest control operator, because of the regulations regarding the pesticide used for this product (Select TCS tick control system).  Again, research has shown the product to be effective in some but not all settings.