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 and acorns. 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’s plenty of them, they are low to the ground and they are not harmed by parasites.
As you might have guessed, acorns are the favorite food of white-footed mice. Here’s where the cycle crumbles—according to tick expert Dr. Richard Ostlfeld and reported on Foxnews.com, this year is, “… one of the smallest acorn crops we’ve ever seen, the mouse population is crashing.”
You might think it’s a good thing when the white-footed mouse population decreases, however, in the tick world, not so good. If there are not enough mice, the ticks have to feed on other mammals, like humans. The last time this phenomenon occurred was in 2007. In that year, black-legged ticks reached a 20-year high.
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.