Ant Pheromones Repel Ticks, Study Finds

As heard on Outdoor Journal Radio

New research from Simon Fraser University (SFU) has discovered an interesting relationship between ants and ticks, one that could help us combat the spread of Lyme Disease.

A paper published this year in Royal Society Open Science, looked at what insect predators black-legged ticks (Deer Ticks) have adapted to avoid.

“We decided to look at ants because they are social insects and use a huge range of pheromones to communicate with one another,” says Claire Gooding, the lead author on the project. “They’re chemically noisy. And for something that perceives the world chemically, they’re easy to predict where they’ll be, based on these pheromones.”

The results found that ticks avoided areas where ants had been, even after those ants were removed.  

“They could see that there were ants and basically go, ‘I’m not going to go there, because there may be ants there, or there may be ants there again soon in the future.’”

From there, chemists went to work on identifying the specific chemicals in the pheromones, as well as the ant glands that produce them. They then began recreating a synthetic version of the pheromones which, in tests, proved to be just as effective at repelling ticks as the natural version.

With the success of this research, the team now has now submitted a patent application on the chemicals, hoping that they will soon be of use to the public to help repel ticks and the diseases they so often spread.

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