Date: 10/10/19 4:15 am
From: James Wilson <birdmanjfw...>
Subject: [MDBirding] do possums really eat ticks
To me, I have a feeling that possums eating ticks is similar to Purple
Martins eating thousands of mosquitos.

Naturally, I googled it and found this study which is probably what
everyone points. Note:I did not spend tons of time looking for other

"Ostfeld is forest ecologist and an expert on the environmental elements of
infectious diseases like Lyme disease. Several years ago, scientists
decided to learn about the part different mammals play in the spread of the
ticks and the disease. They tested six species -- white-footed mice,
chipmunks, squirrels, opossums and veerys and catbirds -- by capturing and
caging them, and then exposing each test subject to 100 ticks. What they
found, is that of the six, the opossums were remarkably good at getting rid
of the ticks -- much more so that any of the others.

"I had no suspicion they'd be such efficient tick-killing animals," Ostfeld
said. Indeed, among other opossum traits, there is this: They groom
themselves fastidiously, like cats. If they find a tick, they lick it off
and swallow it. (The research team on the project went through droppings to
find this out. All praise to those who study possum poop.) Extrapolating
from their findings, Ostfeld said, the team estimated that in one season,
an opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks."

But then I found this: With
the return of warm weather, there is one unsung hero of the animal kingdom
that helps keep the environmental tick levels down. The humble Virginia
opossum, America’s only marsupial, kills nearly 95% of ticks that cross
their path. It is estimated that a single opossum is capable of eating an
estimated 5,000 ticks every season! The Virginia opossum is nocturnal,
relying primarily on smell and touch to find food.

Me again and not quotes: It jumped out at me that the nocturnal possum
relies on smell and touch to find food. Therefore, in my thinking, it is
not plucking ticks off of plants at midnight. The first quote says the
possums in the test were caged and that they "licked off the ticks." Next
time you get a tick, try licking it off. Granted a possum may have a very
sticky tongue or a tongue with special adaptions like tweezers. Also, note
the similar number of eating 5,000 ticks in a season. WOW!!! So the
possum is going to lick off of its body up to 5,000 ticks in a season?
This does not sound possible.

So, do Purple Martins eat 2,000 mosquitoes a day? Can possums lick off up
to 5,000 ticks in a season?

This is probably not the right forum for this topic.

Jim Wilson


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