BY: David M. Higgins II

Macro photograph of a deer tick held between index finger and thumb. BigPhoto

Mechanicsville, MD- The tick forecast for the Mid Atlantic is expected to be above average this summer. This is in part to higher than average temperatures and a lot of moisture over the winter and spring.

Ticks in the Mid-Atlantic include the Deer Tick, Brown Dog Tick, American Dog Tick, and Lone Star tick.

Deer Ticks are notorious for spreading Lyme Disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention say typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans.

Brown Dog Tick; Museum of Southwestern Biology – University of New Mexico

If you do notice a tick on your body, as soon as possible. Use a pair of tweezers to grasp the tick as close as possible to your skin.

Avoid crushing or breaking the tick. That can cause pieces of the tick’s mouth to remain in the skin, which can cause infection.

If Lyme Disease is left untreated, it can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system.

Just how bad will the tick season be?

American Dog Tick; Entomology and Nematology Department – University of Florida

“We base our prediction on the abundance of white-footed mice in the prior summer,” said Richard Ostfeld, a disease ecologist and distinguished senior scientist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. And one of the biggest factors affecting the number of mice in a given year is the number of acorns that drop to the ground the previous year, Ostfeld said.

White-footed mouse numbers were down last year, Ostfeld said. “On that basis, I expect the coming Lyme season to be average or slightly below average in terms of risk,” he said. “But I hasten to add that it’s risky every year and this should not be interpreted as meaning people should chillax and not protect themselves.”

White-footed mice are not only the preferred host for larval black-legged ticks, but they are also natural reservoirs for the plethora of diseases those blood-sucking bugs are known for, experts say.

Lone Star Tick,Wikipedia

Deer are involved in the last phase of the Lyme tick life cycle. The female ticks bite the deer and then go off to lay their eggs —3,000 of them.

Too often, humans are the hosts that come into contact with infected nymphs during their peak spring activity (late May through July). Although the nymphs’ preferred hosts are small mammals and birds, humans and their pets are suitable substitutes. Because nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed, they often go unnoticed until fully engorged, and are therefore responsible for nearly all of human Lyme disease cases. (American Lyme Disease Foundation)

Once engorged, the nymph drops off its host into the leaf litter and molts into an adult. These adults actively seek new hosts throughout the fall, waiting up to 3 feet above the ground on stalks of grass or leaf tips to latch onto deer (its preferred host) or other larger mammals (including humans, dogs, cats, horses, and other domestic animals). Peak activity for adult deer ticks occurs in late October and early November. Of adults sampled in highly endemic areas of the northeast, 50% have been found to carry the Lyme disease spirochete. However, few cases of Lyme disease are acquired from adult tick bites because they are relatively large (about the size of an apple seed) and attached ticks are usually found and removed before spirochete transmission occurs (more than 36 hrs). (American Lyme Disease Foundation)

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...