Acaricide products for ticks

Applying Acaricide Insecticides: Using An Acaricide For Tick Control

Many homeowners in regions where Lyme disease is common are concerned about ticks. The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is the species that transmits Lyme disease in the Eastern and Central United States, while the Western blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) transmits Lyme disease in the Western United States. A bite from an immature tick, called a nymph, is the most common source of Lyme disease infections, but adult ticks can also transmit the disease. If you live near a wooded area where these ticks are present, you may have considered chemical control methods for ticks. Acaricides are one option. Read on to learn more about how to use an acaricide for ticks.

What are Acaricides?

Acaricides are pesticides that kill ticks and mites, closely related groups of invertebrates. They are one part of a strategy for controlling ticks around homes and should be combined with measures to reduce tick habitats.

An acaricide for tick control will include active ingredients like permethrin, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, carbaryl, and pyrethrin. These chemicals are sometimes called acaricide insecticides, but ticks are arachnids, not insects, so this isn’t technically accurate.

Some acaricides are available for homeowners to use. Others can only be sold to licensed applicators, so you’ll need to hire a professional to apply them.

Diatomaceous earth is a non-chemical alternative that may help to suppress tick populations.

How to Use an Acaricide

There are two main ways to use an acaricide for tick control. First, the acaricide can be applied to a whole area. Second, it can be used to treat the hosts that carry ticks, including rodents and deer.

The best time for an area-wide acaricide application is in mid-May through mid-June, when ticks are in the nymphal stage. Another application can be done in the fall to target adult ticks. Acaricides can be applied to tick habitats around a residence including wooded areas and their borders, stone walls, and ornamental gardens. Using acaricides in lawns is only recommended when residential areas are located directly next to woodlands or include wooded sections.

To treat deer tick hosts, rodent bait boxes and deer feeding stations can be placed on a property. These devices attract the animals with food or nesting material, then dose them with an acaricide. The process is harmless to the animal and help can suppress tick populations in the area. Permits may be needed, so check with local authorities before setting them up.

Other ways to keep ticks away from the home include the following strategies:

  • The deer tick mainly feeds on white-tailed deer and on rodents, so reducing the attractiveness of your yard for these critters can also reduce the tick population. Installing a fence around the property can help keep deer out.
  • Tall grass, brush, leaf piles, and debris all provide tick habitat, so keep grass mowed and remove brush around the home. Neatly stack wood, and consider eliminating stone walls and wood piles. Adding a 3-foot-wide strip of mulch or gravel can keep ticks from crossing into the garden from a nearby wooded area.

Whatever measures you are taking, be sure to also check yourself for ticks after enjoying the types of areas where ticks are found.



Livestock play an essential contribution to the livelihood of agriculture-based societies throughout the poor countries of the world (1). The sustainable livelihoods framework places great emphasis on five capital assets as a source of livelihood (namely natural, social, human, physical, and financial capital). Besides the livelihoods of the livestock owners, livestock contribute to hired caretakers, vendors, workers in related industries, as well as the consumers. Livestock, especially cattle, play a paramount role within smallholder dairy, crop-livestock and livestock-dependent systems, especially in poor countries. Most – if not all – of these production systems are at risk from ticks and tick-borne diseases (TBDs). Loss of an animal or reduction of its productivity can, in turn, affect more than one type of capital assets (1).

Tick-borne diseases affect 80% of the world’s cattle population and are widely distributed throughout the continents, particularly in the tropics and subtropics (2). It is in fact widely accepted that tick-borne haemoparasitic diseases are – and will likely continue to be – among the most important cattle diseases in the world, with higher impact in tropical and sub-tropical countries. It has been estimated that the annual global costs associated with ticks and TBDs in cattle amounted to between US$ 13.9 billion and US$ 18.7 billion (2). Ticks and TBDs represent an important proportion of all animal diseases affecting the livelihood of poor farmers in tropical countries (1). This is particularly true in Africa, where other serious vector-borne diseases (e.g., tsetse-transmitted trypanosomiasis, Rift valley Fever, etc.) occur in the same areas where the livestock population is already heavily affected by ticks and TBDs.

Briefly, the complex of vector-borne diseases, and in particular TBDs, constrains directly or indirectly the improvement and the growth of the whole livestock industry in Africa, which is of fundamental importance to rural people, by sustaining not only their food supply but also their daily income and other agricultural activities (1). More precisely, the epidemiological pattern and the risks are different according to the geographical areas (3): (i) in East, Central, and Southern Africa, where theileriosis due to Theileria parva is present (see below) and where European settlers introduced European cattle breeds, tick control measures have been implemented since the beginning of the twentieth century by the authorities. Thousands of dip-tanks (DTs) were thus built and cattle were regularly treated to prevent diseases transmission; (ii) in Western Africa, European farmers never introduced cattle breeds highly susceptible to the TBDs present in the areas. Local cattle did not suffer high losses due to these diseases, tsetse and trypanosomiasis being by far more prominent. Neither regional nor national tick control programmes were implemented (3). However, as the main tick species present in Central and Western Africa is Amblyomma variegatum, which is responsible for important direct losses, farmers were used to limiting cattle infestation by manual removal, and more recently by use of acaricide chemicals.

Ticks are thus responsible for indirect losses due to TBDs (reduction of production and mortality) but also for direct losses caused by their attachment to animal hides and blood sucking activity, leading sometimes to wounds, udder damages, weakness, and death of calves insufficiently fed by infested dams (4). Some particular tick species are also responsible for paralysis or “sweating sickness” due to the injection of toxins (1, 2).

According to Minjauw and McLeod (1), modified from McCosker (5), the major TBDs or TBDs complexes, which have a particularly severe effect on cattle, can be classified into four groups according to the tick vector species:

  1. Boophilus, now Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) spp. are vectors of species of Babesia and Anaplasma (responsible of the so-called babesiosis–anaplasmosis complex). Worldwide, anaplasmosis and babesiosis constitute the most widely distributed TBDs, having a particularly severe effect on imported (exotic) high-grade dairy and beef cattle. In 2005, the so-called blue tick, Rhipicephalus microplus, was introduced in Ivory Coast and Benin through the importation of cattle from Brazil (6). It is now recognized that the tick has colonized the sub-region, including neighboring countries, such as Burkina Faso, Togo, and Mali (7), inducing interactions between native and invasive cattle ticks species which have been recently studied (8). Since its introduction in West Africa, R. microplus, which is known to be the main vector of Babesia bovis, has become a major problem in traditional farms because the introduced tick populations are suspected to be resistant to acaricides, even to those of the last generations (see below).

  2. Hyalomma spp. are responsible for the transmission of the protozoan Theileria annulata which causes tropical (or Mediterranean) theileriosis. It occurs mainly in areas beyond the geographical regions concerned by this review (i.e., Maghreb region and Asia), where it mainly affects exotic cross-bred animals belonging to smallholders and peri-urban dairy producers. Local cattle breeds and buffalo are much more resistant.

  3. Amblyomma spp. are responsible for the transmission of the rickettsia Ehrlichia (Cowdria) ruminantium, which causes heartwater, a fatal disease which affects mainly sheep and goats, but also exotic cattle throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Amblyomma spp. also transmit the protozoan Theileria mutans, which causes a mild theileriosis, and it is responsible (adult A. variegatum ticks) for the worsening of cutaneous lesions due to the ubiquitous actinomycete Dermatophilus congolensis, which causes significant losses in West and Central-Southern Africa (9–11).

  4. Rhipicephalus spp. (in particular the Rhipicephalus appendiculatus–zambesiensis complex) are responsible for transmitting the protozoan T. parva which causes East Coast fever (ECF), a devastating disease in 11 countries of Eastern, Central, and Southern Africa, responsible for major losses in both small- and large-scale production systems. For more detailed information on this deadly disease, it is suggested to consult the comprehensive work by Norval et al. (12).

According to Walker (13), “the acaricidal treatment of livestock remains the most conveniently effective way to reduce production losses from tick parasitosis and tick-borne pathogens, despite repeated predictions over many decades that this is an unsustainable” method. This statement should however take into account the conclusions of the FAO expert consultation held in Rome in 1989 which indicated that TBDs control should be based on enzootic stability which means that in the majority of the traditional systems, particularly in areas where T. parva is absent, very little or even nothing needs to be done to control ticks (14). Enzootic stability, initially mentioned by Mahoney and Ross (15) to describe the epidemiology of babesiosis in Australia, is defined as the condition where the infection of all animals occurs within the period during which young calves are protected by various mechanisms (passively acquired and non-specific factors). These animals can thus develop active immunity without showing symptoms of infection and are later on immune when infected again. When they, in turn, breed, such immune cows transmit passive immunity to their offspring. The maintenance of this enzootic stability is possible only when tick infestation is high enough to allow regular infection of dams and rapid infection of calves, within the early months of their life. In such a situation, tick control should take care not to disrupt the early and regular transmission of the pathogen via the ticks (14, 16).

The most widely used method for the effective control of ticks is the direct application of acaricides to host animals by using the following options, as described by Minjauw and McLeod (1) and by George et al. (17):

  1. dip-tanks: dipping is an efficient, practical, and convenient mean of applying acaricide to a herd of livestock. However, it requires some permanent infrastructures to be maintained, the DT itself (with roofs, crush, and holding pens, etc.) which is expensive to build and to operate; the average capacity of a DT varies from 8,000–10,000 to 20,000–25,000 L and the amount of acaricide needed is high (generally more than 10 L of active ingredient); it requires specially trained personnel to ensure proper management (e.g., initial charging, timely and accurate replenishment of both water and acaricide, and accurate recording of the animals dipped).

    A detailed description of this method, including the design, construction, and management of DTs, is provided in the FAO field manual (18). Later in this paper, the method is described as an example of technical cooperation project for tick control by using “strategic dipping” regime (see par. Case Study 1: Field Experiences in Controlling Theileriosis by Dipping in the Traditional Livestock Sector in Southern Province of Zambia).

    An alternative method to the traditional dipping (i.e., immerging the whole animal body in a dipwash solution) was conceived in Burkina Faso from field observations carried out on the invasion/attachment process of A. variegatum adult ticks on cattle (19); this led to a control method aimed at killing ticks before their permanent attachment to the predilection sites using an acaricide footbath (20); it is important to note that the average capacity of a footbath is about 200 L, which is about 100 times less than a DT. Some photos and drawings on the design and construction of the footbath are provided in a technical fiche by Stachurski (21). A detailed description of this method will be given later in this paper as an example of research-development project applied to sustainable tick control ;

  2. spray races: they are more expensive and difficult to maintain than DTs as various several mechanical parts (e.g., engine, pumps, nozzles, etc.) are required, and this has restricted their use mainly to commercial farmers in most developing countries;

  3. hand-spray: it is the most widely method used by small-scale farmers for treating livestock with acaricides, but it is also potentially the least effective. As the farmers prepare and use themselves the aqueous formulation of acaricide, the concentration of the chemical may be inadequate (too low) or the amount used to treat each cattle may be insufficient (this is usually done in order to spare money);

  4. pour-ons and spot-ons: these are solutions or suspensions of acaricides to be poured along the back line of a treated animal, which spread and disperse over the whole hair/skin. These formulations are expensive, but have the advantage of not requiring water or costly equipment for their application. As the products used in pour-ons are synthetic pyrethroids (see below), they also have a long residual effect and protect animals against both ticks and biting flies. However, it should be pointed out that, sometimes, the pour-ons do not spread enough throughout the body surface to correctly control the ticks attached to the lower parts of the body;

  5. hand-dressing: this procedure involves applying acaricide to the preferred host attachment sites according to tick species (i.e., ears, udder, scrotum, perianal region, neck). As the procedure is time consuming, hand-dressing can be considered in cases where the tick burden is low and there are only a few animals to treat.

There are different classes of acaricides, among which the most commonly available and recommended (1, 17, 22) are the following:

  1. organophosphates (e.g., chlorphenvinphos, coumaphos, diazinon, dioxathion) and carbamates (e.g., carbaryl): these compounds are generally highly effective at low concentrations and are stable in DTs. However, organophosphates tend to accumulate in tissues or milk and are therefore not recommended for lactating cows;

  2. pyrethroids, mainly synthetic pyrethroids: highly effective group of acaricides that includes permethrin, decamethrin, deltamethrin, cyhalothrin, cyfluthrin and flumethrin. They typically show prolonged residual activity (at least 7–10 days) and have the additional advantage of being effective against biting flies. They are therefore used extensively in areas where trypanosomiasis is prevalent (mainly to control tsetse flies);

  3. amidines, which are compounds showing less prolonged residual activity (4–5 days), but no residues are found in meat or milk. The only amidine compound commercialized for tick control is amitraz.

In addition to the acaricides as such, there are also other chemical compounds to be used for tick control: macrocyclic lactones and benzoylphenylureas. The former ones (i.e., ivermectin, moxidectin, doramectin, etc.) are active against a variety of endo- and ecto-parasites besides ticks, and can be administered orally, by subcutaneous injection or pour-on application. However, these products are expensive and residues can occur in the milk and meat of treated animals for several weeks after application. The latter ones (benzoylphenylureas) are growth regulators and do not kill the ticks but disrupt their development, stopping the molting process. The best-known product, difluorobenzoylurea (Fluazuron®) is applied to cattle as a pour-on, acts in a systemic way but has a long residual life in tissue and milk. These products are very effective against one-host ticks such as Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus and may be a solution where resistance to other acaricides is high (1).

Although chemicals are an important part of efforts to control ticks on cattle, they are expensive and can be detrimental to the environment and dangerous for the consumers if the recommended withdrawal periods for food of animal origins are not respected: therefore, the use of acaricides should be minimized and integrated with alternative tick control approaches (1, 2, 23). Depending on the abundance and importance of the various tick species, control strategies/treatment regimes such as seasonal treatments at the peak of tick activity (strategic or threshold tick control) or intensive dipping/spraying at the beginning of the tick season, may be sufficient to avoid economic losses due to ticks and TBDs. Effective control of TBDs is best achieved through a combination of tick control, prevention of disease through vaccination – when available – and treatment of clinical cases, where control fails (2).

Alternative non-chemical tick control methods, such as use of predators and parasites of ticks, pasture spelling (i.e., leaving pastures unstocked to break the tick’s life-cycle), anti-tick plants, tick-resistant cattle, and vaccination with tick antigens are available, but are not commonly used, and sometimes not always successfully employed (24–26).

The main methods for ticks and TBDs control are on the international research agenda for many years and have been reviewed by various authors; an integrated use of the tools available is recommended with a broader view to link TBDs control to the control of other parasitic diseases (1, 2, 26, 27).

The continuous use of chemical control to limit the harmful effects of ticks has led to the development of acaricide resistance in ticks, as it is the case with most chemicals for pest control. This is observed in particular with R. microplus because of the biology of this species: it is a one-host tick, accomplishing its whole parasitic cycle on the same animal within 21 days which allows the completion of 3–5 generations annually. It is therefore subject to more important selection pressure (17, 28–30). In the ‘90s, populations of R. microplus resistant to amidine (amitraz) were identified in Australia and South America, where ticks resistant to macrocyclic lactones were also found since 2000 (17, 30). In Africa, more precisely in Southern and Eastern Africa, one-host ticks (R. microplus and Rhipicephalus decoloratus) resistant to the majority of the different classes of “old acaricides” (but not to amitraz and macrocyclic lactones) have also been described (17, 22, 30). On the contrary, very few resistant three-host tick populations (Amblyomma, Hyalomma, Rhipicephalus spp. other than the former Boophilus) have been described in Africa (17, 30).

In West Africa, investigations carried out with Rhipicephalus geigyi in 2005 showed that even this one-host tick does not presently exhibit resistance to the acaricides under usage (31). At that time, acaricide resistance was not an issue of great concern; farmers continued to apply available acaricides to successfully control A. variegatum infestation during the main infestation period, the rainy season. Since the introduction of R. microplus, farmers were somewhat destabilized: in contrast to what they used to experience with A. variegatum infestation, R. microplus infest animal all along the year despite all kind of control means they may apply. Such alarming situation brought to suspect acaricide resistance in field tick populations (7). Preliminary laboratory bioassays on field tick population collected in Burkina Faso and Benin (i.e., testing almost all combinations of field isolates and acaricides) showed a strong resistance, mainly with pyrethroid such as deltamethrin and cypermethrin, in B. microplus populations as compared to what was observed for Boophilus geigyi (32).

Nowadays, the use of synthetic acaricides is still one of the primary methods of tick control, and therefore, it would be imperative to develop strategies to preserve their efficacy (30, 33). Negative aspects of the use of acaricide chemicals, besides their high direct costs, are the selection of resistant tick populations, the risk of jeopardize enzootic stability, the production losses due to handling of the animals and to the withdrawal periods, the public health implications due to toxicity, and environmental impact. In addition to that, some authors have claimed that systematic chemical control could reveal to be a non-cost-effective strategy, unless a complex set of variables (i.e., local epidemiological situation, infrastructural, and institutional constraints, etc.) are taken into account and carefully appraised (22, 34), which led some authors to suggest the strategic and threshold tick control regimes previously mentioned.

Acaricides in Common Flea and Tick Repellants

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