Ticks, chiggers, horn flies, and other external parasites can be reduced with fire. However, studies have shown parasite reductions are generally short-lived with parasites typically returning to pre-burn levels within a couple of seasons.
Cully, J. 1999. Lone star tick abundance, fire, and bison grazing in tallgrass prairie. Journal of Range Management 52:139–144.
Drew, M., W. Samuel, G. Lukiwski, and J. Willman. 1985. Evaluation of burning for control of winter ticks (Dermancentor albicuptus) in central Alberta. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 21: 313–315.
Swengal, A. 2001. A literature review of insect responses to fire compared to other conservation managements of open habitat. Biodiversity and Conservation 10:1141–1169.
Troublesome pests such as ticks can be controlled with fire. However, for most parasites, control by fire lasts only for one growing season post-burn.
Many tourism areas suffer economic loss because of the public’s perception of ticks and other pests in parks, campgrounds, and other recreational facilities. Ticks pose a serious health risk to humans, pets, livestock, and wildlife because of the diseases they can carry. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme’s disease, and other infections can be transmitted to humans from ticks. Domestic animals can also contract fatal diseases from ticks. Decreased livestock production from insect borne illnesses can also cost livestock producers thousands of dollars each year.
Controlling Ticks With Patch-Burning
Current research suggests patch-burning (patch-burn grazing) significantly reduces ticks on domestic livestock. When a patch is burned, the livestock follow the fresh burned areas and camp out on those areas until another patch is burned. Burning the patch kills the ticks, removes their habitat, and limits the livestock’s contact with ticks because they are concentrated on the burned area. Since the livestock follow the burns, they remain in areas with fewer ticks.