Perspectives on the potential of entomopathogenic fungi in biological control of ticks

Éverton K. K. Fernandes
Vânia R. E. P. Bittencourt
Donald W. Roberts, Utah State University


Ticks are serious health threats for humans, and both domestic and wild animals. Ticks are controlled mostly by application of chemical products; but these acaricides have several negative side effects, including toxicity to animals, environmental contamination, and induction of chemical resistance in some tick populations. Entomopathogenic fungi infect arthropods in nature and can occur at enzootic or epizootic levels in their host populations. Laboratory studies clearly demonstrate that these fungi can cause high mortality in all developmental stages of several tick species, and also reduce oviposition of infected engorged females. Tick mortality following application of fungi in the field, however, often is less than that suggested by laboratory tests. This is due to many negative biotic and climatic factors. To increase efficacy of fungal agents for biological control of ticks under natural conditions, several points need consideration: (1) select effective isolates (viz., high virulence; and tolerance to high temperature, ultraviolet radiation and desiccation); (2) understand the main factors that affect virulence of fungal isolates to their target arthropods including the role of toxic metabolites of the fungal isolates; and (3) define with more precision the immune response of ticks to infection by entomopathogenic fungi. The current study reviews recent literature on biological control of ticks, and comments on the relevance of these results to advancing the development of fungal biocontrol agents, including improving formulation of fungal spores for use in tick control, and using entomopathogenic fungi in integrated pest (tick) management programs.