The mission of the Knipling-Bushland U.S. Livestock Insects Research Laboratory (KBUSLIRL) is to provide the Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program of APHIS/VS, the U.S. cattle industry, and the public, technology for eradicating or controlling ticks and blood-feeding flies of veterinary and medical importance by: 1) developing methods and knowledge for eradicating outbreaks of cattle fever ticks and preventing introductions of fever ticks on livestock imported from Mexico; 2) creating self-treatment methods to control ticks of veterinary and medical importance on white-tailed deer and exotic ungulate wildlife; 3) developing improved methods for the diagnosis and management of pesticide-resistant southern cattle ticks and the horn fly; and 4) developing integrated control strategies that minimize reliance on insecticides for the control of biting flies affecting cattle.
The objectives of the laboratory’s research program were created in response to needs identified by the stakeholders and their customers who are the beneficiaries of the technology and knowledge developed to help solve their specific problems. Veterinary Services (VS) of APHIS, the Texas Animal Health Commission, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association assign a high priority to the efforts of the KBUSLIRL to provide the technology and information needed by VS to prevent the ingress and dissemination throughout the southern U.S. of cattle fever ticks and tick-borne disease agents from Mexico. The widespread occurrence in Mexico of southern cattle ticks resistant to acaricides in three major chemical groups, and dense populations of white-tailed deer and exotic ungulate species that are alternative cattle fever tick hosts are paramount among the factors that have enhanced the challenge of keeping cattle fever ticks and the disease agents they transmit out of the southern U.S.
The demonstrated expertise of KBUSLIRL scientists for developing methods for eradicating cattle fever ticks from white-tailed deer and elk has also been applied to the creation of deer self-treatment methods for reducing human risk to infection with the agents that cause illness such as Lyme disease, human ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Local, state, Federal health authorities and the public are demanding assistance with efforts to find efficacious, safe, low environmental impact, and cost-effective methods for controlling populations of vector and pest species such as the blacklegged tick and the lone star tick. To date, the experimental technology that holds the greatest promise is the ‘4-poster’ device, one of several methods developed by the KBUSLIRL, and one of a series of accomplishments during more than two decades of research on methods to control ticks affecting humans.
The needs for improved remedies to mitigate the adverse impacts of several ectoparasites, especially the horn fly and the stable fly, on cattle have been high on the prioritized list of problems for which the Cattle Health and Well Being Committee of the NCBA has sought assistance from the ARS through the research of scientists at the KBUSLIRL. A number of factors have complicated efforts to control blood-feeding flies with existing technology and have created a need for innovative research to find new ways to limit the adverse impacts of these ectoparasites on cattle production. New practices by farmers and ranchers, including the use of large round hay bales, have inadvertently provided new habitat for immature life stages and have increased the abundance of stable flies, particularly under range conditions. The evolution of resistance to insecticides used in conventional fly control methods (many developed or perfected at the KBUSLIRL) has minimized the effectiveness of these control tools. Reductions by animal health companies in investments to develop new kinds of insecticides and a public recognition of the advantages of using less pesticide reinforce other justifications for research to provide improved methods to replace existing technologies or to use with them in integrated pest management programs.
The KBUSLIRL occupies a unique position among research laboratories in veterinary and medical entomology. For five decades, the laboratory has worked in partnership with VS to protect U.S. cattle from the continual pressure of cattle fever ticks and babesiosis to spread from Mexico back into the 14 southern states where they once occurred. The need for this partnership has never been greater. No other laboratory in the U.S. has a scientific staff with the combined knowledge of white-tailed deer behavior, entomology, molecular biology, engineering, and tick control technology to utilize in the development of methods to control species of ticks of veterinary and medical importance in the U.S. Control of the horn fly and stable fly will continue to be a major problem with new, non-pesticide-centered, technologies based on biological control, mechanical fly control devices, applications of natural chemicals, genetic control, or other approaches are developed. The combination of scientific skills from fields of entomology, agricultural engineering, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and molecular genetics at the Kerrville laboratory provide the basis for a multidisciplinary approach to the creation of new ways to address the national problem of limiting production losses caused by blood-feeding flies on cattle.