Spring is here and so are the ticks! This year, be extra careful because the tick population should be booming and it’s all related to the white-footed mouse. The black-legged tick is a carrier of Lyme’s disease and one of its favorite places to hang out are on white-footed mice. These mice are the perfect host for ticks because, in a normal year, there are plenty of them, they are low to the ground and they are not harmed by parasites.
This year, however, look out for a tick like plague. Last year, there was a mouse plague, a higher than usual number of these little critters in our woods. According to research published in Ecological Applications, the summer following the increased mouse population, ticks and Lyme cases increase dramatically. And once again, the Hudson Valley is ground zero for this problem.
Research by the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies has shown that about 90% of the larval ticks that feed on mice become infected with Lyme disease bacteria. Last year’s bumper crop of mice was a perfect breeding ground for larval ticks that will emerge in abnormally large numbers as nymphs this spring, as early as May.
Life in the Hudson Valley has always led to a concern of ticks. This year in particular, the risk of exposure to Lyme disease will run at an all-time high. Next week, we will review the steps you can take to protect yourself from ticks, the symptoms of tick bites and when you should seek medical treatment.