Will Super-Cold Temperatures Kill Off The Tick Population For Next Summer?

So far, winter has been pretty tough in many parts of the country. Between super-cold temperatures and the Bomb Cyclone, which has caused snow to fall in the unlikeliest of places (even Florida!), people across the country already have their sights set on spring.

The arctic weather has impacted all manner of wildlife, including sharks and iguanas. One species you may see less of next summer due to the brutal cold are ticks. Yes, the ice and sub-zero temperatures may be enough to kill some of these pests off.

icicles photo
Flickr | slgckgc

Ticks, which are arachnids (in the spider family), live in grassy and wooded areas. They survive off the blood of humans and animals. While some tick bites can be harmless, certain types of ticks also carry dangerous illnesses like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

lyme disease photo
Flickr | monkeypuzzle

Scientists aren’t entirely sure just how big of an impact the cold weather will have because the possible reduction in tick population depends on where you live and how bad winter is in your area.

If there are snow and leaves on the ground, that means ticks are more likely to survive the cold snap, as they can burrow in and insulate themselves. Bare ground, however, could leave them vulnerable to the effects of extreme temperatures.

snow photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

“If the ticks were completely exposed, these temperatures of zero or five-below or 10-below would certainly be sufficient to kill a number of ticks,” Griffin Dill, a scientist at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Pest Management Office told the Bangor Daily News.

The problem is, though, that the ground is warmer than the air.

“From what we’re finding, even with these persistent below-zero temperatures, it’s staying 25, 30, as high as 35 degrees down close to the ground,” Dill continued. “It’s still relatively warm under there … If we have the ticks covered by leaves and covered by a foot or so of snow, chances are, even with these persistent cold temperatures, they’ll be relatively unharmed.”


Ticks Are Resilient

Unlike other insects such as mosquitoes, ticks are a lot more adaptable to the cold.

snowfall photo
Getty Images | Chris J Ratcliffe

“I can put ticks in the refrigerator and take them out, and seconds later they are moving around and active. They are perfectly ok with those colder temperatures, especially if they have time to get used to it,” Susan Paskewitz, the chair of the Department of Entomology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Popular Science. “Even though they have these mechanisms that protect them, they don’t go into hibernation, and they won’t be quiescent for a long period of time. As soon as it gets warm, they’ll be right back out there looking for a source of a blood meal.”

tick lyme disease photo
Flickr | fairfaxcounty

The Correlation Between Mice And Ticks

Perhaps the real question we should be asking here is: How are mice populations doing right now? In 2017, scientists predicted an above-average number of Lyme diagnoses in the Northeast due to an increase in the number of mice in that region.

As NPR reported at the time, certain animals like possums, will rid their bodies of ticks—sometimes killing them in the process. Mice and deer, another animal population that’s been growing, are able to tolerate infestations and allow ticks—and therefore Lyme disease—to flourish.

mouse photo
Flickr | gizmo-the-bandit

Bottom line: The extent of the potential effect of this weather on ticks remains to be seen. We don’t know yet whether there will be fewer pests to worry about this summer, but take heart — it will be summer again, eventually!

[H/t Country Living]