ORONO – As temperatures rise — and snow begins to melt — the ticks come out.
“We have received about a half a dozen calls … of people saying they have found ticks on themselves or on their pets,” said Griffin Dill, integrated pest management professional at the University of Maine.
A tick expert, Dill said it is extremely difficult to predict the number of ticks Maine can expect for the upcoming spring and summer seasons.
“This past winter was kind of strange. We had a lot of freezing and then thawing events which could be detrimental to the ticks,” he said.
But Dill said that during winter, ticks don’t actually die. He said snow and freezing temperatures hardly affect them at all.
“They go down to the ground level, beneath the leaf litter. The snow that accumulates insulates them very well and they just kinda hang out there until spring,” Dill said.
Dill said weather conditions during those seasons can also impact the tick population.
“If it’s hot and it’s dry, we’re going to see relatively low tick activity. But if we’re getting rain and it’s relatively humid and things like that all summer long, then it’s going to be high,” he said.
The deer tick, commonly found in Maine and other New England states, can carry Lyme disease, which can be transmitted through a bite to humans and animals.
Data for 2017 indicated more than 1,800 confirmed cases of Lyme disease were reported statewide, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The total for that year was up 23 percent over 2016, Maine CDC’s data showed.
Dill said now is the time to be cautious and take steps to prevent contracting tick-borne diseases.
“Create that barrier to prevent the ticks from entering your skin. And then when you come indoors, conducting a tick check is vitally important,” Dill said.
He said anyone who is bitten by a tick can ask to have it analyzed by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Tick Lab.