A new remote-controlled rover makes use of tick behavior to lure the tiny bloodsucking arachnids into a death trap, all the while leaving the environment free of pesticides after the fact.
Ticks suck… literally and figuratively. The small arachnids are carriers of about a dozen human pathogens including Lyme disease and Spotted Rocky Mountain Fever, which is killed a young girl earlier this year. Up until now, our methods for combating ticks have been pretty basic: don’t walk in tall grass if you can avoid it, and check yourself after you do. Engineers at the Virigina Military Institute hope to bring the war against ticks to the 21st century with their new “Tick Rover”.
The rover makes use of the rather simplistic nature of the tick to fool it and kill it. Since ticks aren’t very mobile, they have excellent sensory organs for picking up trace amounts of CO2. Carbon dioxide and ground vibrations from as much as 20 meters away give the tiny bloodsuckers the cue they need to know there’s an animal approaching. Once they realize this, they get to a high vantage point and ready themselves to grab onto you as you pass by.
The Tick Rover mimics this behavior. A long hose giving off CO2 is laid out before the rover. The CO2 attracts all nearby ticks to the hose, lining them up for capture by the rover. The rover then drives over the area, dragging a wet cloth soaked in pesticide behind it. The ticks believe the rover is an animal and latch onto the cloth, but in doing so, they seal their fate.
Here it is; the bane of a tick’s existence
“When they sense carbon dioxide they sense a blood meal is nearby and they run. You can actually see them scuttle onto this tube and then run along it searching for where that live animal is,” said Dr. James Squire, project lead, “The cool part about this is that it leaves no pesticide in the environment.” The reason for this is that the cloth is disposed of after the ticks are dead.
The engineering team hopes to commercialize the method for pest control services, but the Tick Rover needs to be improved first. The rover provides only temporary relief for about 24 hours before the ticks repopulate the area.