Could Diminished Acorn Crops Lead To An Increase In Tick Populations?
Tick Q&A With American Pest
Question: Is the mild winter to blame for an increase in ticks this spring?
Answer: Not entirely. Although evidence supports that after a mild winter tick activity will begin earlier than usual, area experts believe that it may not be the only reason populations are on the rise. Ticks feed on mice. Mice feed on acorns. When acorn crops are low, mice populations diminish, leaving behind a lot of ticks looking for their next meal– this according to Richard S. Ostfeld, a disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
Question: Should I be concerned about the rise in tick populations in our area?
Answer: The short answer, yes. Not only will residents in Maryland, D.C., and Northern Virginia see ticks earlier and heavier than last year, they can expect to find more of them in urban areas where animals and humans frequent—places like Rock Creek Park in Montgomery County or Gwynn’s Falls Park in Baltimore.
Question: Should I be concerned about Lyme disease?
Answer: Yes. Young Deer ticks, known as nymphs, are responsible for spreading the highest volume of contracted cases of lyme disease. Due to their small size, deer tick nymphs may remain undetected for 2 to 3 days, allowing for transmission of the disease to occur. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about the signs and symptoms of lyme disease.
Question: Where might I encounter a tick?
Answer: Ticks are most common in wooded and overgrown areas where the ground is covered with leaf litter, thick weeds or high grass. In urban environments ticks may also be found on well-maintained lawns, or even inside your home. This is because they drop off pets and non-domestic wildlife that cross over or through these areas.
Question: How can I protect my pets from ticks?
Answer: Protect your pets year round by using a veterinary-approved flea and tick control product such as Frontline or Frontline Plus. Do not expect that over the counter products will be a sufficient measure to control ticks on your cat or dog. Seek the advice of a veterinarian if you detect ticks on your pet(s).
Tips to control ticks around your home:
- Create “tick-free” zones around your home by cutting back wooded areas.
- Keep your lawn well-maintained to a height of 3 inches or less, thus reducing humidity at ground level.
- Remove brush, weeds, leaf litter and other yard debris that attracts ticks and their hosts.
- Rake back leaf litter and cut away undergrowth several feet into the edge of any wooded area lining your yard.
- Eliminate dense perennial plant beds close to your house, such as ivy and pachysandra (also good prevention for several ant species).
- Consider fencing to keep out larger wildlife as well as neighborhood pets.
- Don’t purposefully attract and feed wild animals which may bring ticks into your yard.
- Reduce the plants in your yard that deer love to eat (azaleas, rhododendrons, arborvitae and crabapple) and increase plants that they don’t like (such as spruce, pines, boxwood, daffodils and marigolds).
- Create vegetable and flower gardens in the middle of large areas of open lawn.
Other pests to watch out for this spring:
Ticks won't be the only pest to make a rapid, strong appearance this spring. The National Pest Management Association reported earlier this spring to expect a resurgence of many home-invading pests like box elder bugs, springtails and certain ladybird beetles.
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