Ticks. Even just reading the word is enough to give some people a tingling down the back of their spine. The word brings with it images of afternoon hikes in the woods that end with a thorough body search to make sure none of the little bloodsuckers have hitched a ride. But have you noticed that some years tick season seems worse than others? Well, that’s because weather plays a big role in how bad a tick outbreak might be and when tick season begins. Read on to learn more about this little-known connection between weather and tick outbreaks.
The Winter Misconception
First off, it’s important to understand that most ticks do not die off during the winter months. To survive the cold and snow, they find shelter in leaf litter and lay dormant until spring. However, adult deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks) remain active year-round. You or your pet could pick up a hitchhiker anytime the air temperature is close to freezing or above and the ground isn’t frozen or snow covered. In freezing weather, deer ticks hunker down under the snow in leaf litter, on firewood or a tree trunk, and come out during warm spells. If you find a tick inside during the winter, it probably hitched a ride on firewood.
It’s Not What You Think
This means just because we have an unusually cold winter the tick population won’t decrease. They just stick it out a little longer until it warms up. Likewise, a milder winter won’t create a larger tick population. What often happens though is that the warmer temps will mean there are more deer ticks that are active and looking for a host—like you or your pet.
Another contributing factor to activity is an early or warmer spring. The adult females wait until spring to lay their eggs. If the temperatures rise early that means the egg-laying season will arrive early and the ticks will hatch early. If the weather continues to cooperate with the larvae, it has the potential to create a tick outbreak in early summer instead of late summer. Thereby increasing the tick population.
More Than Weather
Another factor in tick population is the population of mice and deer. Both are favorite hosts for ticks at every stage, they are literally a tick’s lifeline. Larger populations of mice and deer mean more hosts and a greater chance for survival for ticks anytime of the year. Of course, ticks will be happy to find a blood meal on birds, other animals, and humans.
While there may be little we can do about the weather, there are some things you can do to protect yourself and loved ones from ticks. First and foremost, no matter the season, perform a tick check every time you return from the outdoors. If you find a tick remove it promptly. The best and safest way to remove a tick is with tweezers. Grab it as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull straight back. Second, consider putting up a tick barrier. Our tick shield solution will help reduce the population of ticks in your yard throughout the year. It will be just one less thing you have to think about.