Should I be Concerned about Ticks in the Fall and Winter?

Fall is here. We’ve traded swimsuits for sweaters, golf clubs for gloves, and fresh summer salads for hearty autumn soups. And while we are definitely enjoying our South-Central Pennsylvania autumn, we are also very aware that ticks are still a big threat during this time of year. And no luck with winter either. Are you surprised? We don’t blame you. Many people assume that ticks are not a significant threat in the fall and winter. Unfortunately, that’s just untrue. Read on to learn why you should still be concerned about ticks in the fall and winter.

It’s no longer every tick for themselves.

While most ticks, like the American dog tick and lone star tick, are absent during the colder months, it does not mean they die. They simply go into diapause, a state of dormancy characterized by a low metabolic rate, just high enough to keep them alive. Adults of the black-legged tick (also known as the deer tick) take advantage of the decreased competition from other tick species at this time.

Blacklegged ticks are the ticks most commonly associated with the spreading of Lyme disease. They only decrease activity when the temperature drops below freezing or the ground is snow-covered. But they quickly recover when the weather warms up just a little. For freezing temperatures to actually kill these ticks, there must be a repeated number of days below 10 degrees F. This happens less often as our Pennsylvania winters, in general, are warmer than they used to be. Even then, any tick that has attached to a deer will be kept warm by the animal’s body and will easily survive a cold spell.

The first frost brings no freedom from ticks.

In reality, the adult black-legged ticks begin their prime feeding activity just about the time of the first frost. That’s because their main host animals are deer and deer are actively moving around in the fall. But if deer aren’t around, black-legged ticks will attach to people or pets anytime the temperature is above freezing.

In this region, we even have a tick called the winter tick (or Dermacentor albipictus), that looks like and is closely related to the American dog tick. This tick is not active in the summer and usually does not bite people. It is, however, found commonly on moose, elk, and deer and hunters will encounter this tick during the season.

So, what does it mean?

What this means is that you can’t really let down your guard when it comes to ticks and the possibility of tick-transmitted diseases. So, take the standard precautions. And consider making a plan of attack for next spring. Our Tick Shield treatments reduce the tick population around your home and prevent new colonies from forming in your yard by implementing an effective barrier treatment that eliminates ticks before they can get to you.

There is one good thing about ticks this late in the season. They are bigger, so they are easier to detect on your skin. And if you do find a tick, use tweezers to remove it. There are new tick-removing devices on the market, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that you can remove a tick effectively with just regular tweezers.