Tick season thriving

Warm winter extends presence of multiple varieties

Graphic: Michigan Lyme Disease Foundation Varieties of the most common ticks in Michigan

Social media posts regarding the emergence of ticks in the Copper Country began appearing in February, which means the season for them will undoubtedly be longer this year.

The Metropolitan Mosquito Control District office, in St. Paul, Minnesota, reported on April 4 that the unusually warm temperatures, and lack of precipitation, have impacted the behavior of ticks as well as mosquitoes. Staff at the district office reportedly found their first tick on Feb. 5.

Further south and east, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mix 95.7 radio station reported on March 8 similar news, saying Michigan’s relatively warm winter has raised concerns among experts that the state may experience a more severe tick season this year. Increases in tick populations raise concerns over the diseases they spread when someone is bit by one.

Tick season usually lasts from April to September, but with the warm weather of this past winter, the season this year began two months earlier.

The Western U.P. Health Department says that much of the Western U.P. has been identified by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) as a confirmed area with black-legged ticks present with Lyme bacteria. Lyme disease cases in the UP have increased in recent years. MDHHS reports that more than 80% of the state’s counties are potentially at risk for Lyme disease due to the presence of black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks.

According to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, ticks generally live two to three years and have four life stages. They must have a blood meal from a new host at every life stage in order to survive. The feeding process is lengthy and can last for several days. During this process, ticks can both ingest from and transfer bacteria into the host.

Mayo Clinic concurs with WUPHD in regards to the increase in Lyme disease cases, reporting that between 2004 and 2019, the CDC reported an increase in tick-borne diseases from 22,500 to about 59,000.

In addition to Lyme disease, ticks in the U.P. and other northern Midwest regions also spread Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (Brown dog tick).

MDHHS states there are five common ticks in Michigan: American dog tick, Deer tick, Lone Star tick, Woodchuck tick and Brown dog tick.

Tips to avoid ticks, says WUPHD, include:

• Walk in the center of trails, away from heavy brush.

• Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be spotted more easily, and removed before attachment

• Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants tucked into socks or boot tops to keep ticks from reaching your skin.

• Ticks are usually located close to the ground, so boots or shoes and not sandals, are recommended.

• Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Allow clothing to thoroughly dry before wearing. Permethrin can remain protective through several washings. Do not apply permethrin directly to skin.

• Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, oil of eucalyptus (OLE), paramenthane-idol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes and mouth. Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months old. Do not use products containing OLE or PMD on children under 3 years old.


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