Black flies bite, but ticks really suck. Enough complaining – that never helps.
After such a long winter, we are all grateful that spring has finally sprung, even though the price of warm weather seems to be the advent of biting insects. Swarms of mosquitoes can drain the fun from an evening on the deck, but a single black-legged or deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) can take the shine off an entire summer if it infects you with Lyme disease and/or another serious illness. » Continue Reading.
Eighteen years ago, when I moved back to New Hampshire, I rarely came across ticks. The dog didn’t carry them unwittingly into the house, and I could spend the day in the garden or on wooded trails and not see a single, hard-shelled, eight-legged, blood-sucking creepy-crawly.
Not so anymore. Now, from the time of snowmelt in the spring to the first crisp snowfall of autumn – and often beyond – we find ticks everywhere: on the dog, crawling up the front door, along kids’ hairlines, on backs or arms or legs, and occasionally (and alarmingly) walking along a couch cushion or bed pillow. » Continue Reading.
I’d been living in the North Country for about a month when I woke up to discover a red bulls eye on my left arm. Since, mentally and emotionally, I have never advanced much past the fourth grade, my first thought was: “Cool!”
Because it was clearly visible, however, a number of people subsequently pointed out that this, technically, was nothing to celebrate. So I walked around for the next three days looking like the dog from the Target ads, while people dutifully commented on my impending doom.
Nothing ever came of it. So far the only discomfort ticks have caused me is embarrassment, owing to an appointment with a massage therapist that went horribly wrong. » Continue Reading.
Years ago I read an author interview, and although I don’t recall her name, one of the images she raised has stayed with me. It’s not an exact quote, but she said something to the effect that writing ought to feel to an author as if they were water skiing behind their work, not towing it like a barge. In general, I find this to be the case. The hours or days of research which go into an article are hardly exhilarating, but the wave-jumping that comes after shrinking those pages of facts into 800 words makes it worth the effort.
However, when I tried to water-ski behind a brand-new invasive tick that can reproduce without mating, drain the blood out of livestock, and potentially carry ten or more human diseases, including one similar to Ebola, something changed. A few topics whip across the water at high speed. Most at least pull me at a leisurely pace. This one made me drop the whole water skiing idea and swim for my life. Turns out there is a limit to how many miles you can get out of happy imagery. And to how long a writer should be allowed to spend alone in a room with the same metaphor. » Continue Reading.
Over the past few decades, black-legged tick populations have grown relentlessly. These are the ticks that carry Lyme disease, and so what was once a novelty illness has become a rite of passage for many. It’s probably safe to say that by now everyone reading this knows someone who’s had the disease, if they haven’t had it themselves.
But some years are worse than others when it comes to Lyme disease infection rates, so the obvious question is: what causes this? Part of the answer involves the number of deer and small mammals around. There’s been elegant science done that establishes a neat connection between Lyme disease rates and good acorn years. The oaks produce a good crop, which causes a spike in the mouse and chipmunk populations the next year, and then a surge in human Lyme disease cases a year after that. » Continue Reading.
With the warm weather here and more opportunities to spend time outdoors, it’s important to remember these tips to prevent ticks from affecting your summer. Be sure to protect yourself, pets and your property from ticks.
The most effective way to avoid ticks when outdoors is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation. However, if you hike, camp, hunt, work or otherwise spend time in the outdoors, you can still protect yourself. » Continue Reading.
I’ve been asked on four different occasions, recently, how tick populations will be impacted by the December/January below-zero cold. Some of those asking had heard reports, apparently claiming that tick populations would be decimated, if not eradicated, by the prolonged period of extremely cold weather.
We’d all certainly welcome that. It’s probable that you or someone you know has been affected by ticks and/or by Lyme disease. And any downward pressure on tick populations is welcome. But, the answer isn’t that simple. » Continue Reading.
On a hike this spring, we walked through a clear-cut area with tall grass and brambles. Afterwards, our pant legs were crawling with black-legged ticks (Ixodes scapularis), also known as deer ticks, the kind that carry Lyme disease. Scientists with the Vermont Department of Health recently examined over 2,000 ticks and found that 53% of black-legged ticks tested positive for Lyme disease. A small percentage of the ticks carried pathogens that cause anaplasmosis or babesiosis, two other tick-borne diseases that can make people gravely ill.
Understanding the two-year life cycle of the black-legged tick can help prevent Lyme disease. In the spring of the first year, tick larvae hatch from honey-colored eggs in the leaf litter. The six-legged larvae, about the size of a poppy seed, soon seek their first blood meal. The larvae may become infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease through this blood meal; it all depends on what kind of animal they find as a host. If it’s a white-footed mouse, they’re very likely to contract the Lyme spirochete. If it’s a chipmunk or shrew, they’re somewhat likely. If it’s a squirrel or a larger mammal, they probably won’t. » Continue Reading.
The loathsome deer tick, also known as the black-legged tick, is defined more by the disease it spreads than by its own characteristics. Deer ticks, a name that came about due to its habit of parasitizing white-tailed deer, are transmitters or vectors for Lyme disease microbes that they acquire by feeding on infected mice and rodents. Lyme disease, if untreated can cause a variety of health issues including facial paralysis, heart palpitations, arthritis, severe headaches, and neurological disorders. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Lyme disease is currently one of the fastest-growing and most commonly reported vector-borne diseases in the United States. More than 14,000 cases are reported annually, but because the symptoms so closely resemble the flu and usually go away without treatment, scientists estimate as many as nine out of every ten cases go unreported. » Continue Reading.
At some point in the last 20 years, ticks have moved up on the Most Feared Insect ladder, thanks to the spread, and the greater understanding, of lyme disease. Early on, lyme’s vagaries and a lack of medical advancement made for a tricky diagnosis; after standard blood work came up blank, doctors would tell men to suck it up, and women that they were hormonal.
Thankfully, we have a better handle on it today, and while the disease is still terribly problematic, we at least know what we’re up against, and someone who contracts it has a far better chance of being properly diagnosed and treated.
But even though, rationally, I know this knowledge is all for the good, my emotional side pines for blissful ignorance, when ticks were of no more concern than congressional oversight committees. It’s kind of a Wile E. Coyote situation, in which he walks off a cliff, and as long as he doesn’t know he’s walked off a cliff he’s fine — he keeps walking on air, until he looks down and sees where he is, and which point he plummets to the bottom of the canyon. » Continue Reading.
Paul Smith’s College’s efforts to monitor tick populations and tick-borne pathogens in the Adirondack region, in collaboration with the New York State Department of Health, have documented an increase in infected ticks in the North Country.
Focusing primarily on St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin and Essex counties, Paul Smith’s College biology professor Dr. Lee Ann Sporn, a team of students and Adirondack Watershed Institute stewards have been collecting blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, which are tested by the Department of Health for disease-causing agents. In addition to an increase in the bacteria causing Lyme disease, the researchers have also recently found ticks carrying the agent that causes human babesiosis for the first time ever in the North Country. » Continue Reading.
Lean-tos provide some of the comforts of home in the Adirondack backcountry – a respite from inclement weather, and a comfortable place to cook, eat and socialize. Unfortunately, a potential hidden danger lurks in every corner, and hikers may be unintentionally contributing to the problem.
The threat is the Hantavirus, a nasty virus in the Bunyaviridae family. These viruses infect, but leave unharmed, a variety of local rodent species. Unfortunately, the virus can produce a potentially fatal disease in humans, brought about by contact with rodent urine, saliva or feces. Deer and white-footed mice are frequent visitors to Adirondack lean-tos. » Continue Reading.
Summer should be a carefree season full of picnics and swimming, a time for hikes and barbeques on the deck, not a time to fret about tick-borne illnesses. As few as ten years ago it was unusual to find even one brown dog tick or lone star tick on your person after a weekend of camping in northern NY state. Now in many places all you have to do is set foot in the brush to get several black-legged ticks, commonly known as deer ticks, which are harder to see than other ticks.
The deer tick is known to transmit Lyme disease as well as Babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus and other serious illnesses. In fact it’s possible for two or more diseases to be transferred to a host, human or otherwise, by a single tick bite. » Continue Reading.
Ticks carrying Lyme Disease are in the Adirondacks. Join The Wild Center and Paul Smith’s College at 1 pm on Saturday, December 6th, for a forum on Lyme Disease featuring five regional scientists and health professionals who will share their professional knowledge and expertise.
The presenters will include Brian Leydet from Trudeau Institute, Jennifer Gallagher from High Peaks Animal Hospital, Jonathan Krant from Adirondack Health, Tim Sellati from Trudeau Institute and David Patrick from the Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute. » Continue Reading.
Researchers from Paul Smith’s College are finding Lyme Disease in ticks and small mammals in the Adirondack Park.
Paul Smith’s College professor Lee Ann Sporn is heading her college’s involvement in a Lyme Disease study that includes the state Department of Health and Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake. Trudeau is working to develop a vaccine for Lyme, while Sporn and students are monitoring the disease by testing mammals and ticks for it. Researchers hope to get a better understanding of the biology of the disease, where it is found geographically, and what factors are influencing its spread.
So far, Sporn said that some of the test results have surprised her, including that a high percentage (eight of twelve) of small mammals tested positive for Lyme Disease in Schroon Lake. The animals — mainly mice, shrews and voles — were trapped in the wild. » Continue Reading.
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