Acorns, Not Weather, To Blame for More Ticks
National Pest Management Association explains why 2010's crop puts people at risk for tick-borne disease
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is forecasting a heavier tick season than in previous years, but it's not due to the unseasonably mild winter as one might expect. Rather, acorns can be blamed for the predicted surge in tick populations this year, particularly in the Northeastern U.S.
Oak trees produced an extremely large acorn crop in 2010, which led to a boom in the white-footed mouse population last year. As a result, the blacklegged (deer) tick population also increased because the ticks had an abundance of mice to feed on when they hatched. However, this spring those same ticks will be looking for their second meal as nymphs, but a decline in the mice population may force them to find new warm-blooded host - humans.
Experts are concerned about an increase in human cases of tick-borne disease. "Many of these nymphal ticks may have contracted Lyme disease from feeding on infected mice as larvae," said Jim Fredericks, technical services director for NPMA. "These hungry ticks will soon be looking for another blood meal, which puts people at risk as they head outside to enjoy the weather."
NPMA offers the following tick tips:
• Use tick repellent when outdoors and wear long sleeved shirts and pants, preferably light in color, so ticks are easier to detect.
• Use preventative medicine on pets, as prescribed by your veterinarian.
• Once indoors, inspect clothing and your entire body. Check family members and pets that have been outdoors.
• Keep grass cut low, including around fences, sheds, trees, shrubs and swing sets. Remove weeds, woodpiles and other debris from the yard.
• If you find a tick on your body, remove it with a slow, steady pull so as not to break off the mouthparts and leave them in the skin. Then, wash hands and bite site thoroughly with soap and water. Ticks should be flushed down a toilet or wrapped in tissue before disposing in a closed receptacle.
• If you suspect a tick bite, seek medical attention.For more information on ticks, please visit www.pestworld.org.