What if ticks were an endangered species? Would we preserve critical habitat for them? Fund a captive-tick breeding program? It would be hard for me, as a hiker and dog owner, to summon any sympathy for these disgusting little pests. If they were gone, would the greater environment miss them in any way?
Just a fantasy. Ticks are, of course, thriving and a new report from the
The CDC report might lead health authorities to accelerate the research and approval of a Lyme
California isn't among them, and one reason for that is that we have, in a sense, our own little natural vaccine program going. In this state, nymphal ticks' favorite host is the common western fence lizard, which has a protein in it blood that kills the bacterium responsible for Lyme. As a result, few adult ticks are carriers.
The situation is a little more complicated than it seems. A 2011 study found that reducing lizard populations appeared to reduce tick populations too — in other words, they didn't take to other hosts very easily. But that study, though intriguing, is limited in size and scope. What happens if over time, without their favored host, evolution favors ticks that are happy to switch to, say, wood rats (which came in as second choice among ticks in the study)? So far, the lizards have kept California's endemic Lyme disease very low, though it does exist here.
No, California is better off sticking with what nature provided us. Here's a bumper sticker for our Lyme-riddled time: Save the lizards.