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In eastern U.S. oak forests, defoliation by gypsy moths and the risk of
Lyme disease are determined by interactions among acorns, white-footed mice, moths, deer, and ticks. Experimental removal of mice, which eat moth pupae, demonstrated that moth outbreaks are caused by reductions in mouse density that occur when there are no acorns. Experimental acorn addition increased mouse density. Acorn addition also increased densities of black-legged ticks, evidently by attracting deer, which are key tick hosts. Mice are primarily responsible for infecting ticks with the
Lyme disease agent. The results have important implications for predicting and managing forest health and human health.