So, if you want to avoid contracting that dreaded Lyme disease and other nasty tick bites, listen up. I need you to go into your back yard and look if you have any Japanese barberry growing. Because, if you have it, I got some bad news for you.
NBC Connecticut reports that the Japanese barberry bush so happens to be a tick heaven. Despite that, the plant happens to be one of the more popular garden “must-haves” sold at big box stores.
Darrel Phillips, of Griswold, had the bush growing wild in the woods. Phillips’ 5 month old son also became first person in CT ever infected with Powassan virus, a potentially deadly tick-borne illness. Phillips added he and multiple family members came down with Lyme, too. He estimates about six family members contracted the infection.
He says he found acres of the plant in the woods surrounding his house.
The state of Connecticut considers the Japanese barberry an invasive species. Yet, home gardens and commercial landscapes continually plant the bush since it is pretty attractive. You’ve probably seen it growing at your local gas station, grocery store, and restaurants.
But, underneath its pretty leaves lies a haven for ticks. It’s a dense and thick bush that retains humidity, so ticks enjoy the warmth year round. But also, because of the thorny branches, mice love taking shelter in them.
And since white-footed mice happen to be the biggest carrier of the bacteria that causes Lyme, you get a perfect storm.
Dr. Scott Williams is the lead researcher on the plant for the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and says beware of that plant. Since mice double as tick taxis, naturally wherever those plants go, so do increased tick populations.
He says the plant causes Lyme disease-carrying tick populations to grow 12 times higher.
While the Phillips family aren’t 100 percent certain the Japanese barberry thicket contributed to their son’s illness, they’re not taking any chances.
So, they plan on clearing away as much of the plant as they can.
Meanwhile, if you happen to have that shrub growing around your property, you might wanna rethink about changing that out. I mean, if not for the tick bites, do it for your surrounding gardens. Because that invasive plant could take them over.