Japanese barberry

Do you have 10384103_924920557534810_5341852348296242209_n on your property?
One would be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t, at least on some level, a bit squeamish about ticks. It makes sense evolutionarily speaking. Anything that could be a potential disease vector or even just a parasite has the potential to reduce an organisms fitness and should be avoided. With cases of lyme disease on the increase, ticks are becoming a serious issue. Did you know that your landscaping choices can have an affect on tick numbers in your area?

A recent study published Entomological Society of America lends credence to that thought. The culprit in this case is Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). This nasty shrub is native to eastern Asia and Japan but it has been widely planted as a landscape tree. The problem is that it produces bright red berries that birds love to eat. The birds fly off and poop barberry seeds as they go. To add insult to injury, it is quite spiny and thus it is a pain to control. Even the deer don’t care for it much! Because of all of this, Japanese barberry is now an invasive species in the eastern United States, escaping into our forests more and more every year. In some spots it grows into impenetrable thickets.

This is bad enough, but what about the ticks?

Apparently ticks love barberry. Due to the way in which it grows and forms thickets, Japanese barberry evidently provides a very suitable microclimate for tick nurseries. Young ticks need a moist environment otherwise they will desiccate and die. The researchers even found that by controlling Japanese barberry numbers, they could significantly reduce the tick numbers of that region. These findings are all the more reason to get out there and eradicate Japanese barberry from your neighborhood. Spread the word on this issue.

Photo Credit: James Gaither

Further Reading:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/22182557/

http://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=BETH

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