More About the Lyme Tick Nurseries

Last week on the other website where I write, an article was published called “Please Stop with the Lyme Tick Nurseries.” The tick nursery analogy is the result of a correlation between invasive, exotic Japanese Barberry in a given region and an increase in Borrelia burgdorferi infected ticks, as studied by researchers at the University of CT. So, essentially- we’ve continued to use an invasive plant as a fixture in the traditional American standard landscape style, and now this invasive plant is exacerbating a public health crisis in humans. Eventually we were all bound to feel the direct pinch of habitat loss and species marginalization- we’re animals, even if we have less contact throughout the day with the outdoors than other wildlife does, we still live here.

The landscape designer and writer Debbie Roberts has written about this subject extensively. Her writing is very solutions based, offering readers a sense of how to fix the problem through responsible landscaping, and the resulting increase in biodiversity. Emily Debolt always knows the latest legislative trends concerning invasive species.

The original article on my website linked to a peer reviewed study about the correlation between Japanese Barberry in the landscape and an increase in tick populations, and somehow one of the researchers from the study heard about it and followed up with me to offer more information, which was new to me. Jeff Ward, co-author of some of the CT studies, alerted me to correlations between other invasive species and tick born illnesses in humans. That’s a link for a Missouri based study that links Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and tick quantities, as well as an increased infection rate of Ehrlichiosis (a common Lyme co-infection) in the people who live near the invasive Honeysuckle. Jeff also noted that similar correlations are hypothesized between other invasive species, including multi-flora rose, but they have not yet been able to get funding for these studies.

Those of us who have been stung by the wildlife gardening bee come to see biodiversity as an admirable goal that seems self explanatory and an end in iteself. But a restoration of biodiversity seems to be our only real way out of this problem. (This is covered very nicely by Debbie Roberts, for more information.) Stephen Harrod Buhner, a master herbalist and researcher talks about this in his book, Healing Lyme. Human activities have marginalized deer predation by developing through mountain lion and panther habitat. The important predators of ticks are also struggling, these include many species of birds and predatory insects (like ladybugs and parasitic wasps). Habitat revitalization through gardening with native plants can no longer be considered a cute hobby or fringe interest. Land owners have a responsibility to all the species and sentient beings connected to them- human or other iteration of wildlife.

20131205-200846.jpg photo credit, mixed media artist Stephen Bodin, used with permission.
Because really, the lines are blurred between wildlife and “civilized.”

© 2013, Jesse Elwert. All rights reserved. This article is the property of We have received many requests to reprint our work. Our policy is that you are free to use a short excerpt which must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Please use the contact form above if you have any questions.

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  1. says

    Interesting article Jesse. With a host of invasive problems in Florida, thankfully we don’t have j. barberry and little if any lymes infection.

    Having lived in the northeast and had a few friends with lymes, perhaps the realization that giving hiding places in the form of exotic landscape choices to ticks that carry disease is the wakeup call for people to curb their misguided aesthetic needs over what is good for the environment.
    Loret T. Setters recently posted..The tussock

    • says

      Thanks Loret. I like how you phrase this, that our percieved aesthetic needs really are kind of self-centered if we don’t consider our connection to the world outside our property line.


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