Deer-Tick Population Headed Up in New England

An expert on deer ticks says scientists are bracing for what could be a bumper crop of the disease-carrying blood suckers this year. But  it’s one thing that can’t be blamed on the unusually warm weather.

Blame the rodents. Late last summer, populations of mice, shrews, and chipmunks spiked in this region. Those rodents are the favored hosts for deer ticks when they are in their early “larval” phase. That’s followed by the “nymph” phase — when the ticks are still quite small and easily missed by human hosts, who can then be infected by lyme disease and other pathogens.

“There’s a good chance that the nymphal tick population in the summer of 2012 will be higher than what we’ve seen in the past couple of years,” says Kirby Stafford, Connecticut’s state entomologist. “There were a lot of rodent hosts for the larval ticks to feed on this past summer.”

Kirby Stafford is the state entomologist for Connecticut. He says that while some people may have noticed more adult ticks in the woods in recent weeks – that’s simply a matter of the relatively warm weather allowing the adult insects to be more active than they are in colder winters.

“The tick does not hibernate, so with these warm days in the 50s, even in the high 40s you can certainly go out and pick up a toick when you are hiking or walking a dog. The nights are a little cooler so the activity is a little lower, but they are out there.”

Between 200 and 2010 there were more than 200,00 cases of confirmed lyme disease in the country according to the U-S Centers for Disease Control.

And you can find Professor Stafford’s tick handbook at:

http://www.ct.gov/caes/lib/caes/documents/publications/bulletins/b1010.pdf

Tick Management Handbook