Do Ticks Have A Role in the Environment?
I’m sure you’ve heard by now all sorts of stories about the threats ticks pose. Probably you and many others wish they all would just disappear.
You all have a reason to be mad at these pests because of the diseases they cause. Nobody is safe from a tick bite, not even your pets. Now, is there a purpose for ticks? Why not just take them out?
Ticks are among one of the most hated and feared pests. Nevertheless, as much as you may find yourself hating them, they are not completely bad. In fact, they play an important role in the environment.
Ticks have existed for a long time, and they aren’t expected to go away any time soon. Their first appearance in the fossil record dates way back in the Cretaceous period. Dinosaurs are thought to be their major hosts for blood before humans existed. The oldest tick fossil is about 90 million years old and it was discovered in Sayreville, NJ.
In a nutshell, ticks have come a long way. We wouldn’t be seeing them around still if they weren’t needed in the ecosystem. If they didn’t have a purpose, they likely would have disappeared by now.
Purpose of Ticks
#1. Ticks are food to other animals
Ticks are food to some birds like guinea fowl, wasps, opossums, western fence lizards as well as amphibians. How would these animals survive if there were no ticks? They’ll possibly starve to death, or they’ll start eating other insects, causing changes in their population. One mess up in the food chain can cause a whole chain reaction, which could be severe.
#2. They carry and transmit diseases
No one wants to be sick. Nevertheless, diseases are important. Yes, they are! The majority of living beings die as a result of diseases – what would happen if there were no diseases? Their population would increase tremendously, wouldn’t it?
As a result, there would be an overpopulation that might lead to an array of negative impacts on the ecosystem, including depletion of natural resources. Mice and deer populations, among other wildlife, would increase drastically, resulting in them needing more food and resources. It would be a very messy scenario.
#3. They indicate the health status of an ecosystem
The population of ticks in a certain area influences the health status of the place. Ecologists are able to have an in-depth understanding of different ecosystems. When a tick population is high, it is an indication that the number of animals that prey on small mammals has reduced. On the other hand, a decrease in tick population shows that the number of predators of small mammals has increased.
For instance, an increase in the rattlesnake population in an area will cause a significant decrease in the population of ticks. This is because snakes prey on the small mammals that ticks feed on such as mice and opossums.
#4. They are hosts to other organisms
There are micro-organisms that live on ticks and depend on them for survival. These organisms, or in other words, micro-parasites, include viruses, bacteria, and protozoa, among others. If ticks seized to live, these micro-organisms will be losing their hosts. You may want to hate these microorganisms but remember that they are an integral part of the diversity of life in the universe.
It is evident that ticks are of much benefit to the balance of our ecosystems. Their complete eradication is not possible and is a bad idea. Even after having said that, no one wants to be a victim of tick-borne diseases. Therefore, just because they are important doesn’t mean we want to be around them.
How to Protect Yourself from Ticks
- Regular lawn mowing
Ticks are mostly found outdoors, especially in areas with long grass and brushes. These areas are mostly moist and shady hence favorable resting and breeding grounds. Therefore, by mowing the grass around your home regularly, you’ll be denying them reasons to come there.
- Treat your pets
There are various over-the-counter insect repellents that you can apply to your pets to protect them. You can also use natural home remedies such as essential oils like geranium and lemongrass.
- Wear bright clothing
Just before you go to an area that you suspect has ticks, wear bright clothes. This way, you can easily spot the bugs as they attempt to you climb up to get an exposed skin area to bite. The clothing should have long sleeves and long enough pants to tuck into your socks.
- Avoid areas infested by ticks
Try as much as you can to stay away from tick-infested places. If it is inevitable, do all you can to avoid coming to contact with grass or any other vegetation. This is where ticks may be waiting for passing hosts to grasp.
Ticks are really troublesome, but the ticks purpose in the ecosystem overrules that. Unfortunately, we probably can’t live in a world without ticks, as good as an idea as that may sound. Be sure to take the proper tick prevention measures to make sure your safe from ticks.***