About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Natural predators of ticks

You might not realize how lucky you are if you spot a Virginia Opossum at your feeders. They are North America's only marsupial. They give birth to relatively undeveloped young about the size of raisins, that crawl into their mother's pouch (like baby kangaroos) where they nurse for roughly 100 days until they are old enough to ride on her back.

But that's not only why they are so special. They are like little vacuum cleaners that eat fallen seed from feeders but also any night time creepy crawlies like grubs, insects, and even mice and snakes. "They really eat whatever they find," said Laura Simon, wildlife ecologist with the U.S. Humane Society.

And now ecologists have learned something else about opossums. They are also a natural predator of  black-legged ticks (the carrier of Lyme disease). Based on study results, researchers calculate that a single opossum might kill an astonishing 4,000 ticks a week.

Scientists tested opossums by capturing and exposing each test subject to 100 ticks. What they found, is that the opossums groom themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they swallow it. The research team confirmed this by going through the possum poop. So that opossum, waddling around at night, picks up lots of ticks, but more than 90 percent of them end up being groomed away and swallowed.

For Simon, of the U.S. Humane Society, that is a welcome justification to just leave opossums be. "People are so hard on them," she said. "That's in part because people think opossums might be rabid when they drool and hiss and carry on when threatened. In fact, opossums are resistant to rabies." They are also immune to the sting of honeybees and scorpions, to toxins such as botulism and even to the venom of rattlesnakes and other poisonous serpents. They don't harm us and yet humans are the biggest predator to these amazing critters. So drive careful!

A bird-friendly yard may also help keep the tick population down. Turkeys, chickens, robins and many other ground-feeding backyard birds eat ticks too.

Sources: http://opossums-kill-ticks  http://give-opossums a-break
Related Articles:
What do Opossums eat? http://what-do-opposums-eat.html
Mysterious Regurgitated Nuggets Left Behind at Birdfeeder http://regurgitated-nuggets-left.html
Do turkeys eat ticks or carry ticks? http://turkeys-eat-ticks.html  
How to attract robins to your yard http://attract-robins-to-your-yard.html

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