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Tick ​​Season Is About To Get A Whole Lot Of Worse For Hikers And Dog Owners



W ith spring comes glorious sunshine, warmer weather – and ticks.

Ticks and some insect pests can carry bacteria, viruses and parasites that may cause disease in humans. One in particular, the blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis is well-known for its ability to transmit the [Lyme disease-causing bacterium] (https://www.inverse.com/article/50478-avoid-lyme-disease -from-ticks-this-fall), Borrelia burgdorferi

For the most part, these ticks are inactive throughout the winter and start to look for their next meal as seasonal temperatures warm up. ] As the global climate warms, it's more likely that some ticks will remain active through the warmer winters and can expand their habitats into new areas. Because of this, hikers and owners need to be watchful for ticks year-round to reduce the risk of getting sick.

Cold Adapted

Ticks and other pests are prevalent in forests during the warmer months, from spring to fall . But where do they go during the winter and how they survive the cold polar vortexes, inches of snow, and frostbite-inducing wind chill?

Animals use a variety of strategies to deal with the winter months. While humans layer on clothing and mostly avoid going outside during bone-chilling temperatures, other organisms employing sophisticated behavioral adaptations and biological technologies to face winter head-on

Culex pipiens Hibernation is key to survival. The insect enters a dormant phase (called diapause), allowing it to stay mostly inactive through the winter. The female Culex mosquito, a possible carrier of the West Nile virus, builds up fat stores during the summer and fall that serve as energy reserves and insulation for the winter months. This source of energy is useful for mosquitoes after they seek out and settle down in human-made structures, sewers, and animals that use as shelter to help them escape subzero temperatures.

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Blacklegged ticks position themselves at the tips of grasses to seek out their next blood meal such as from passing dogs.

Ticks, however, do not enter into diets and are still able to bite and eat a blood meal under the right conditions. These blood-sucking parasites live close to their host organisms, and sometimes spend their entire life cycle on one animal. They use a technique called quest to locate a host that will serve as their next blood meal. Ticks station itself on vegetation such as tall grasses and assume a sit-and-wait position. This allows them to grab onto any warm-blooded creature passing by.

Humans have our own behavioral strategies to protect ourselves from ticks during the warm seasons of the year. We do this by wearing long-sleeved clothing and using protective sprays when going on hikes through wooded and grassy areas.

Battle Against the Bite

One of the main challenges we still face in our battle against the bite is the fact that ticks further depending on where they are located in North America.

For instance, the ticks will avoid questing in warmer southern regions such as in South Carolina, where the risk of dehydration pushes them onto the ground, mostly below the leaf litter. In contrast, northern tick populations are less likely to be due to humid conditions, and are more likely to be in search of interest. This means that these are not limited to seeking out hosts during the warm months alone but can continue feeding in the early and late winter. It is, therefore, important not to lower one's guard when enjoying the outdoors in winter time.

Ticks are most active when temperatures rise above 7 degrees C. But don't be fooled into thinking that ticks simply when the harsh winter weather kicks in! In reality, the ticks are likely to survive even the harshest polar vortex.

It is quite common for ticks to cluster in hibernation nests and seek refuge under the layer of soil and ground litter within forests, where the temperature is less likely to occur. fall below zero. In addition, snow cover, which acts as an insulating form on ground litter, currently to further insulate ticks from the frigid winter air temperatures.

colder temperatures by preventing their blood and tissues from freezing.

Looking Forward

Climate change and the warming of our planet have resulted in the expansion of blacklegged by tick populations to more northern regions of North America, including the states of Wisconsin and New York and the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. tick rash lyme disease tick rash lyme disease “/>

The characteristic bull's-eye patterned rash after a black ticked tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi.

Using climate change models and current tick distribution patterns, we can now predict the impact of future climate change on the migration of ticks and the potential hea lth risks that these populations carry across Canada and the United States. For example, the geographic distribution of the black-ticked tick is projected to expand and cover most of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba by the year 2070.

It is very likely that all seasons can be a tick season in some regions. This makes it especially important to engage in continued spotting and avoiding these tiny pests, even when out for a walk during the winter months. If your dog is disrupted by a patch of nested ticks, for example, it could bring home some unwanted guests.

So, what can we expect as the weather warms up and as long winter nights transition into sunnier spring days? You can be sure that a number of ticks that were around last season survived this winter. They are simply waiting for the right cues – warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours – to emerge and start the quest for their next blood meal.


This article was originally published on The Conversation by Rosa da Silva. Read the original article here.


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