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Warm Weather Tick Explosion is Here

Reviewed by Dr. Celeste Clements, DVM, DACVIM on Thursday, June 11, 2015
Posted June 11, 2015 in A Vet's Life

Deer tick

As we enter the warm weather season, it is difficult to remember that just a few months ago parts of our country were experiencing record snow fall totals and cold temperatures. Despite this brutally cold and snowy winter across much of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic, experts say tick populations across both regions will be thriving this summer.
The recent, below-average temperatures aren’t likely to make a dent in the local tick population, says Aislinn Sarnaki of the Bangor Daily News. According to Maine tick experts, “They’ll be out as soon as it warms up.”

Thomas Mather, co-founder and director of the University of Rhode Island Tick Encounter Resource Center says, “…dog ticks are probably up at least a third over what we saw last year [at this] same time." The quote appears in an AccuWeather article by Jillian MacMath. MacMath also reports that Mather’s resource center performs a crowd sourced tick survey across America, and receives between 90 and 150 requests per day to identify different types of the parasite. Mather has said, "What we're seeing over the last few weeks has been a virtual explosion compared to [the] last year of American dog ticks in the mid-Atlantic and New England area."

What diseases do ticks carry?
There are three types of ticks that are of greatest concern in the mentioned regions. They are:

  • The American Dog Tick (Dermacentor sp.) — Carries infections causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever and others  
  • Black Legged Deer Ticks (Ixodes sp.) — Carries infections causing Lyme disease and others
  • Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma sp.) — Carries infections causing ehrlichiosis and others

Why didn’t the harsh winter kill off the ticks?
It is likely that this winter's abundance of snow helped to keep the ticks and small rodents warm. Small rodents serve as the host for the immature stages of ticks. Snow works as an insulator from low temperatures.

Meteorologist Ben Noll told MacMath that, "In the mid-Atlantic, it was the second coldest February of all-time in Pennsylvania, 6th coldest in Maryland and New Jersey and 7th coldest in Delaware and Virginia, which also contributed to keeping snow on the ground for long periods of time."

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.

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