Don’t let shorter summer days and “back to school” activities fool you into thinking ticks are not still lurking, maybe even as close as your own backyard. It is a common misconception to assume the end of summer vacation means the dangers of vector-borne illness are no longer a concern when in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, ticks thrive with the conditions that are present here in Maryland during the months of April – September.
Tick-borne diseases are serious and not to be taken lightly. Tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Ehrlichiosis have become more common in our area and will continue as increased moisture levels and warmer seasons are commonplace in today’s climate.
In addition, any surge in deer populations and their close proximity to humans can, and do, ultimately allow greater exposure of ticks to deer and humans alike. These factors all contribute to an environment of increased reproduction of ticks throughout the United States and especially in the Northeast US where ticks are the highest in population.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), tick-borne diseases are acquired through bacteria, a virus or a parasite on the tick itself. Most infections occur during summer months, but they can occur at different times of year, depending on the overall climate in a specific area. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases include a rash, which may be pronounced and obvious, or non-existent. Additional symptoms include fever, chills, and aches and pains. Although research continues in developing a vaccine for tick-borne illness in humans, at the present time it does not exist. With this in mind, raising awareness, control and preventing contact with ticks is the only way to reduce your risk of possible contraction of a tick-borne illness.
Along with our proven barrier spray, tick tubes are an effective second punch at eliminating ticks in your yard. So, what are they and how do they work? When is the best time during the year to use them?
Tick tubes target nymph ticks. Ticks have 4 stages of development in their average two-year life cycle. Ticks begin as eggs laid by female adults in late fall. Here in Montgomery and Howard County, MD, ticks are most often found in the dens of white-footed mice because they provide the best conditions for ticks to develop.
#1) First, the mice build protected nests. Tick eggs laid in the mice’s nest in the fall will become larval ticks in early spring and need their first blood meal. When white-footed mice aren’t available, chipmunks, shrews, voles and other rodent nests will suffice.
#2) After hatching from eggs in early spring, the larvae take their blood meal from the closest host they can find, often the mice whose home they live in. As they grow into nymph ticks, the rodents whose home they reside also serve nicely as the tick’s second blood meal. The transmission of the Lyme infection from one infected nymph tick who previously took a blood meal from an infected mouse allows the infection to be transmitted to many ticks that later bite the same and other previously infected mice. Keep in mind, ticks are not born with Lyme Disease and larval ticks are not infected when they first enter this stage of their life cycle. Only after acquiring a blood meal at the end of the larvae stage can they become infected by infected mice.
#3) As fall arrives, the nymph ticks seek out a home for winter and a place they can get their next blood meal as they move into adulthood. Once again, they will seek out a white-footed mouse’s nest. In the second spring of its life, the nymph tick will take its second blood meal from the white-footed mouse whose nest it may be in. It is in this second spring that we and our pets are most likely to get Lyme Disease from a tick. Since nymph ticks are so tiny, we often don’t notice them on our skin, or on our dog’s skin. Why do ticks need to bite us for blood when they have the mice? Because it’s not often that ticks stay attached long enough to get a full meal from any one source.
#4) As ticks grow larger, they are above ground and out of the nests, during this period they begin “questing” for any available animal. For this reason, a tick may bite several hosts (mice, other rodents, humans, etc.) before getting the amount of blood they need to continue growing into adulthood.
Tick tubes are meant to make sure ticks don’t make it to their 2nd spring. In order to build a proper nest for winter, white-footed mice will search for nesting material. Mosquito Squad tick tubes contain cotton saturated with insecticide that will eliminate ticks. By building their nest with the tick tube cotton, the mice will get the insecticide on their fur as they move around in their nest during the winter. When spring arrives again, enough insecticide is on the mouse’s fur that the ticks will be eliminated on contact, before they can get their 2nd blood meal. No harm is done to the mouse by the insecticide, so they continue to serve as tick-destroying hosts during the warmer months of the year.
As you can clearly see, the period of late-summer as we enter into fall is one of the most crucial times for tick tube implementation. Contact Mosquito Squad of Montgomery County or Mosquito Squad of Howard County today to learn how to stay protected the entire season! You can reach us by phone at (301) 926-3001, or via email at montgomery-county.mosquitosquad.com.