Weather conditions have led to an explosion of creepy crawlies—tick populations are booming across New England states!
Last year, a short drought helped keep tick numbers down. The little eight-legged bloodsuckers thrive when humidity levels rise above 85 percent. And with the end of drought conditions there, ticks are on the rise, big time!
Like kissing bugs (see the Arizona News Highlights story on this page), ticks can really be a real pain to mammals and make them sick.
The main ticks in the area are dog ticks and black-legged deer ticks. But ticks’ favorite hosts are really mice, chipmunks, squirrels and other rodents. They also feed on the blood of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
People get bitten by ticks all the time, and usually the bites are harmless. But some black-legged deer ticks can carry Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria that the ticks usually pick up when they’re babies feeding on mice.
Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose, but symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash pattern. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and the nervous system.
Parts of New England have seen big increases in incidents of Lyme disease. Nationwide, Lyme disease cases have tripled over the last 10 years to around 30,000 cases annually. Vermont had the highest number of any state two years ago.
Fortunately, people in the area are reporting more dog-tick incidents than deer ticks. Experts say that the dog tick may be the tougher of the ticks, but don’t transmit Lyme disease. They can carry Rocky Mountain spotted fever and a disease called tularemia—two illnesses that remain rare in New England.
Experts in the field of ticks are calling this a really bad year. People in Maine who are out walking report finding dozens of ticks on their clothes. Interestingly, experts are predicting tick booms by the amounts of acorns that fall two years earlier. Acorns feed the rodents that feed the ticks.