Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lingering Winter Lessens Tick Threat

The first full day of spring, 2011, brought with it a major snowstorm. Normally, winter-weary Mainers can take such things in stride. But this particular storm was just the leading edge of a long stretch of winter-like weather, including intermittent snow showers and sub-freezing temperatures.

Needless to say, all our springtime outdoor activities are necessarily placed on hold.

Hope deferred makes the heart sad and the return of winter has saddened many hearts. So can we find anything at all good about this? To use another familiar phrase, “every cloud has a silver lining.”

Well, the silver lining here involves the life cycle of ticks, those nasty little critters that cause not only itching and infections, but also Lyme’s disease, a debilitating illness.

Anyway, several years ago I interviewed a wildlife biologist with The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The thrust of my story was how ticks operate and how they impact warm-blooded animals.

I learned that ticks fall from their host animals sometime in late winter or early spring and land on the ground. If, as in last year, snow has melted, ticks are able to successfully reproduce, in large numbers. But…if the ticks fall on snow-covered ground, as in now, most of them die and only a few survive.

Last year, I removed countless ticks from my poor hide. Of these, two had managed to take hold and bite. The sites where the ticks bit are still evident and sometimes, they itch. And yes, I was careful to remove the heads from the bite site. Tick bites are terribly unpleasant.

So at least this unwelcome spate of polar weather isn’t all bad. Perhaps this year we can enjoy the outdoors without undue harassment from ticks.

And eventually, spring must arrive for good. It has to, doesn’t it?

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