W ith spring comes the glorious sunshine, warmer weather – and ticks
Ticks and some insect pests can carry bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause disease in humans. One in particular, the blacklegged deer tick Ixodes scapularis is well-known for its ability to transmit the [Lyme disease-causing bacterium] (https://www.inverse.com/article/50478-avoid-lyme-disease -from-ticks-this-fall), Borrelia burgdorferi .
For the most part, these ticks are inactive throughout the winter and begin to look for their next meal as seasonal temperatures are warmed up. [1
Ticks and other pests are prevalent in the forest during the warmer months, from spring to fall. . How to survive the cold polar vortexes, inches of snow, and frostbite-inducing windchill?
Animals use different strategies to deal with the winter months. While the human layer is in clothing and generally avoid going outside during bone-chilling, other organisms employ sophisticated behavioral adaptations and biological technologies to face the winter head-on.
For the common house mosquito, Culex pipiens Hibernation is the key to survival. The insect enters a dormant phase, allowing it to stay mostly inactive through the winter. The female Culex The mosquito, a possible carrier of the West Nile virus, builds up fat stores during the summer and fall that serve as energy reserves and insulation for the winter months. This source of energy is useful for mosquitoes after they seek out and settle in human-made structures, sewers, and animal burrows that they use as a shelter to help them escape subzero temperatures.
However, do not enter the diapause and still have the ability to bite and eat a bloody meal under the right conditions. These blood-sucking parasites live close to their host organisms, and can sometimes spend their entire life cycle on one animal. They use a technique called questing to locate a host that will serve as their next blood meal. Ticks station themselves on vegetation such as tall grasses and assume a sit-and-wait position. This allows them to grab onto any warm-blooded creature passing by.
Human beings have employed our own behavioral strategies to protect ourselves from ticks during the warm seasons of the year.
Battle Against the Bite
One of the main challenges we are still facing in our battle against the bite is the fact that For example, blacklegged deer ticks will avoid questing in warmer southern regions such as South Carolina, where the dehydration risk pushes them down to ground, mostly below the leaf litter. In contrast, northern tick populations are less threatened by drying out due to humid conditions and are more likely to quest.
Interestingly, blacklegged deer ticks also have the ability to quest at temperatures as low as -0.6 degrees Celsius. This means that deer ticks are not limited to seeking out hosts during the warm months alone but can continue to feed well into the early and late winter.
Ticks are most active when temperatures rise above 7 degrees C. But do not be fooled into thinking that ticks just die when the harsh winter weather kicks in! In reality, deer ticks are likely to survive even the harshest polar vortex.
It is quite common for ticks to cluster in a hibernation nest and seek refuge under a layer of soil and ground litter within forests, where the temperature is less likely to fall below zero. In addition, the snow cover, which acts as an insulating blanket over ground litter, tends to further insulate the ticks from the frigid winter air temperatures.
Like many other cold-tolerant organisms, ticks can also produce an antifreeze protein that helps them tolerate Cooler temperatures by preventing their blood and tissues from freezing.
Climate change and the warming of our planet have led to the expansion of blacklegged deer bulls populations to more northern North American regions, including states of Wisconsin and New York and the provinces of Ontario and Québec
Using climate change models and current tick distribution patterns, we can now predict the impact of future climate change on the migration of ticks and the potential good The risk that these populations carry across Canada and the United States. For example, the geographic distribution of the blacklegged tick is projected to expand and cover most of Atlantic Canada and Manitoba by the year 2070.
It is very likely that all seasons may be tick season in some regions. This makes it especially important to engage in continued vigilance in spotting and avoiding these tiny pests, even when out for a walk during the winter months. If your dog disrupts a patch of nested deer ticks, for example, it might bring some unwanted guests.
So, what can we expect as the weather warmers up and as long winter nights transition into more sunny spring days? You can be sure that a large number of ticks that were around the last season probably survived this winter. They are just waiting for the right cues – warmer temperatures and longer daylight hours – to emerge and begin their quest for their next blood donation.
This article was originally published on The Conversation by Rosa da Silva. Read the original article here.