The trick to killing disease-carrying ticks may lie in building a better mouse trap.
Deer are often blamed for carrying the diseases, such as Lyme, that ticks spread to humans, but research has shown mice and other rodents are far more effective hosts for the insects.
So scientists have been testing a device made by a small Connecticut company that tricks ordinary wild mice into becoming tick-killing machines, offering what some researchers think could be the best hope for controlling the ticks spreading dangerous, even fatal, diseases across an ever-broadening portion of the United States.
The Select TCS Tick Control System is a commercially available box researchers are deploying in field studies, and results suggest the box could control tick populations without the environmental and health concerns typically associated with covering areas in pesticides.
The boxes are a variation on the "bait boxes" exterminators use to lure and catch mice and rodents. However, instead of luring and containing the rodents or killing them with bait, these "tick boxes" are booby-trapped with a piece cloth soaked in insecticide that the animals are forced to come in contact with as they enter and leave the box.
Mice, and other small animals then become walking lethal traps for ticks, but are not harmed themselves — the insecticide used in these studies is the same kind used in anti-tick medications for household pets.
A study published this month in the Journal of Medical Entomology showed tick numbers on several properties in New Jersey dropped by 97 percent in 2014, after two separate 9-week tick box treatments in the prior two years. It is the latest of several studies, often sponsored by or done in collaboration with the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The box, is made by a small Connecticut company called Tick Box Technology Corporation. David Whitman, who owns the company as well as a collection of pest control businesses with his twin brother Richard, told CNBC he had worked on the development of the box from the very beginning, circa the year 2000.