Leaves are beginning to turn and Halloween is just around the corner. Who knew that fall is also a time when ticks are active? The adult Blacklegged Tick or “deer tick,” Ixodes scapularis, feeds during fall, warm winter days, and early spring. This tick is a major vector (carrier) of Lyme Disease.
Cold Weather Doesn’t Faze Ticks
While most ticks are absent during the colder months, it does not mean they die. They simply go into diapause, a period of inactivity characterized by a low metabolic rate, just high enough to keep them alive. Adults of the Blacklegged Tick take advantage of reduced competition from other tick species at this time. They are a threat whenever temperatures are above freezing and the ground is snow- and ice-free. Among potential targets are:
The Odds of Contracting Lyme Disease
About forty to sixty percent (40-60%) of Blacklegged Ticks harbor the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease. You can improve your odds of not contracting any tick borne illness by:
- Wearing light-colored clothing on which crawling ticks are easy to see.
- Using permethrin repellents like Ben’s® Clothing and Gear Continuous Spray.
- Using an insect repellent (even when in the backyard) like Natrapel, a DEET-free insect repellent to both clothes and skin; or Ben’s Tick and Insect Repellent (available in 30 an 100 percent DEET offerings).
- Inspecting yourself, family members, and pets after they have been outdoors.
- Removing attached ticks before 48 hours have elapsed, preferably sooner.
Outdoorsmen (and Women) Beware
White-tailed Deer are indeed an important host of adult Blacklegged Ticks, so hunters should be especially careful. Still, most people contract Lyme Disease between April and August, when humans are most active outdoors, and when it is the harder-to-detect tick larvae and nymphs that are feeding.