If you live in deer tick country, tuck your pants in your socks.
I just read in my October Arboretum Newsletterthat the deer tick population there is on the increase. Researchers are on the lookout for these little beasties there, and this past summer they found deer ticks in multiple locations.
Up through 2010, only one deer tick had been found in the Arboretum. They conduct this search by walking slowly along the trails and dragging a flannel cloth over vegetation. This year 12.5 hours or dragging collected more than 100 deer ticks.
Susan Paskewitz , UW-Madison expert on mosquitoes and ticks says, the pretty much everywhere in Wisconsin is infested with deer ticks now, and they are being found in the state’s most heavily populated areas. She predicts that even people in urban areas need to be on the lookout for ticks.
To find out the risk in your area, check out this National Lyme Disease Foundation risk map .
That doesn’t mean we should all hide indoors. We just need to understand their life cycle and take a few precautions.
According to the National Lyme Disease Foundation, the deer tick has a two-year life cycle, and we should all know it well if we intend to be out in natural areas. The ticks go through three stages: larva, nymph and adult, and they need a blood meal for the oomph to make the transition in each stage, but some times of year are more dangerous than others.
The larva stage peaks in August. Larvae can’t infect us, but they may become infected themselves, and then they turn into infected and dangerous nymphs.
Nymphs are most active during the summer, and it is nymphs that give most people lyme disease. They are really tiny. From May through July they lurk on leaves near the ground waiting for a mammal or bird gets close enough for them to latch on and start feeding. Then they drop off and become adults.
Adult deer ticks are active in spring and even more active from late October through early November. They lay in wait up to three feet off the ground on tall grass and leaves. About half of them are infected with lyme disease, which they can pass to us. They are tiny and hard to see — about the size of an apple seed. But in most cases they are still large enough to be noticed and removed before they transfer infection.
That means, if you are out and about, you need to be very methodical about checking yourself over when you get back inside. It takes at least 36 hours for disease transmission to occur.
Adults who haven’t had their blood meal, will drop to the ground and go dormant when temperatures drop below 45 degrees. That means we get a little break in the cold months, but with global warming, we need to be wary during any unseasonable thaw in the winter.
Wear long shirts and pants with the pants tucked into the socks. Then give your clothes a spritz of DEET-containing insect repellent.
Now get out there and enjoy the gorgeous autumn!