“Higher transfer out of the best way,” I mentioned, slowing my truck all the way down to a crawl. In entrance of me was an opossum taking its time crossing the highway, seemingly impervious to the massive metallic car with vibrant lights bearing down on it.
“I by no means might work out what function they serve,” mentioned my buddy Eric as we watched it slowly amble off the roadside.
“I feel to a point all the pieces has a function,” I responded.
“I heard they do eat ticks, so which may be one factor” my buddy replied.
However do they?
It’s true that opossums, extra generally referred to as possums, might be sort of gross. They make a large number within the trash, construct properties in confined areas (probably nearer to your home than you would possibly like), and typically they’ve even been identified to hiss and make a human really feel usually uncomfortable. General, they’ve a foul status.
It’s true that possums will eat virtually something. That’s in all probability not a shock if you happen to’ve ever had one knock over your trash can, however they eat far more than simply family rubbish. They may eat cockroaches, mice and lifeless animal carcasses. I do know that sounds disgusting, however give it some thought. If they’re consuming mice and cockroaches outside that retains them from coming indoors, proper?
They’re additionally nice for the garden, as they eat snails and slugs and different giant bugs that would harm your vegetation. Possums are tremendous resilient. They’re resistant to snake bites and bee stings. They even prey on snakes, in order that’s one other nuisance they’re in all probability protecting away from you. So I assume one profit is they are often thought of protectors of a form.
In style opinion has it that possums are tick destroying machines, however which may probably not be the case. Why would they aim large numbers of ticks as some say, after they can go after extra substantial meals? From web sites to publications to social media, the concept opossums assist save people from tick-borne illnesses is everywhere.
The claims that possums are tick vacuums really hint again to a examine carried out in 2009. In that examine researchers in New York positioned six small species of birds and mammals (mice, possums, squirrels, chipmunks catbirds and thrushes) into cages. All had been inoculated with 100 larval ticks. For the following 4 days—the period of time deemed adequate within the examine for a tick to gorge and drop off a bunch—researchers counted the variety of ticks that fell from the cages into a group pan. Any ticks not accounted for instantly had been assumed to have been consumed or destroyed because the animals groomed themselves.
Squirrels and the half-dozen opossums within the examine appeared to rid themselves of essentially the most ticks, allegedly killing 83 to 96.5 % of the eight-legged pests, with the opossums on the upper finish of the size. From these numbers, researchers extrapolated that opossums can eat as much as 5,500 ticks every season, making them an “ecological entice” for ticks and a “internet reducer” of the parasites.
However one other, extra complete examine performed on wild possums checked out abdomen contents and scat. Completely no proof was discovered and the examine concluded ticks should not a most well-liked eating regimen for possums. Based on Dr. Bret Collier, affiliate professor of wildlife ecology at Louisiana State College’s College of Renewable Pure Assets, “No, by no means, interval. Ticks should not, in any method focused by possums,” he concluded.
So, the place did the ticks go within the 2009 examine? Researchers assumed regular animal grooming conduct might have resulted within the elimination of a small variety of ticks. Additionally in query was the time. Was 4 days lengthy sufficient for ticks to feed and drop off the host noting issues like room temperature and the animals personal physique temperature can all have an effect on the time it takes a tick to feed and fall off.
Additionally identified within the 2009 examine was researchers didn’t examine the opossums for ticks earlier than releasing them from captivity, having assumed that any tick nonetheless alive would have fed and dropped to the holding tray beneath the animals. “It’s attainable that ticks might have nonetheless been embedded and feeding on the opossums upon their launch,” the report says.
So despite the fact that the gradual shifting possum will not be the tick reducer some assume they’re, they do nonetheless serve a function.