Wisconsin April 30, 2019
You Won’t Be Happy To Hear That Wisconsin Is Experiencing A Major Surge Of Ticks This Year
The beginning of spring means we all start to head outside, but it also means the beginning of tick season. Unlike many other animals and insects, many species of ticks can actually withstand winter weather and they aren’t killed off en masse by the cold. In addition, our winter was mild until late January and February, giving them longer to prepare for the cold. Now the longer days and more sunlight let the ticks know it’s time to head back out and find their next meal. In May, their nymphs emerge and the tick population swells. Combine that with more humans out and about, usually with more exposed skin, and it’s a recipe for a possibly dangerous situation.
There are a number of factors that go into what determines the size of the tick population - increased acorn production a few years ago leads to more food for mice, who live longer, procreate more and provide more hosts for ticks, who also reproduce more. A mild or snowy winter can also make a difference as the snow actually works as an insulator. More snow also usually means more humans out and about doing winter recreation, again providing more food for the bugs.
More daylight hours signals to the bugs that it's time to head out. Here in the Midwest, the tick of concern is the deer tick, which can carry Lyme disease. But scientists are also on the lookout for the longhorned tick. This tick can also be found in East Asia, where it's shown itself capable of carrying human diseases. That trait hasn't been shown here, but it's something scientists are watching closely. The tick has not yet made it to Wisconsin from the east coast, but scientists believe it's only a matter of time.
There are 15 different tick-borne illnesses, though here in Wisconsin we're concerned with three: Lyme, Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis. A tick has to be attached for a while before disease transmission begins, which is why it's so important to check for ticks after spending time outdoors, especially in wooded and grassy areas.
Aside from arms and legs, we have to make sure to check areas where the bug might be more difficult to see, like along the hairline, in elbows and knee joints and in the armpits.
If you take your pet outside, you also have to check them. The tick may choose to change hosts and move from your pet to you and you wouldn't even be looking for them at that point.
One of the signs of Lyme is a bullseye-looking rash that appears on the skin around the bite site. Some ticks are as small as a poppy seed and can be very hard to spot. The CDC recommends showering after being in an area that may be prone to ticks. Not only can it wash away a tick that's not attached yet, but it gives you a chance to inspect yourself for bites.
When removing a tick, you have to be careful to not detach the body from the mouth. Grab it with a tweezers and gently back it out of the skin. Don't twist or torque. And don't panic. A tick bite does not guarantee infection.
Don't handle a tick with your bare hands, but once you remove it, tape it to a card or piece of paper and add the date you found it. You can keep it like this for a few weeks. If you do get sick, you can show this to your doctor and they can test it to help diagnose you.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison's Department of Entomology lab keeps track of ticks in the area and recorded 34 adults over the Easter weekend. Ticks are already out and about and looking for lunch here in Wisconsin and as their nymphs emerge, it's only going to get worse. Wisconsinites have to stay vigilant and take precautions to be safe this spring.
Check out what the Centers for Disease Control says about tick prevention
It looks to be a wet, buggy spring –
learn more about how to be safe in Wisconsin’s floods here.