Behavioral responses of Ixodes scapularis tick to natural products: development of novel repellents

  • Nicoletta FaraoneEmail author
  • Samantha MacPherson
  • N. Kirk Hillier


The spread of blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) and growing threat of Lyme disease transmission has increased demand for effective, safe and environmentally friendly repellent products. Plant-derived essential oils are natural products that exhibit insecticidal and repellant activities and represent a promising alternative to synthetic repellants. However, mechanisms by which ticks detect odor stimuli and how such stimuli may function as repellents are not well understood. We examined the repellent activity of selected essential oil components towards I. scapularis in short- and long-term dose–response trials. To determine the specific olfactory organs involved in detection of chemical stimuli, we tested tick behavioral response in repellency bioassays after removing appendages that house chemosensory sensilla (e.g., foretarsi or pedipalps). New prototype formulae were tested in longevity trials repelling up to 95% of tested ticks after 1 h post-application. This study provides new insight regarding tick olfaction and behavior, and innovative methods for selecting appropriate chemicals for development of novel plant-based repellent products for protection from ticks.


Tick olfaction Repellent Essential oils Haller’s organ Palps Terpenoids 



We would like to thank Wendy Hillier and Angie Moore for technical assistance and data collection. We thank Atlantick® Repellent Products for technical support. Special thanks to two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments and support. This research project was funded by the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation (CanLyme, Venture Grant to NF), Productivity & Innovation Voucher Grant (Nova Scotia) (to NF), and NSERC Discovery funding (RGPIN-2017-04319 to NKH).

Author contributions

NF, SM, and NKH conceived and designed research. NF and SM conducted the experiments. NF analyzed data. NF, SM, and NKH wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chemistry DepartmentAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada
  2. 2.Biology DepartmentAcadia UniversityWolfvilleCanada

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