According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the tick population is increasing with every passing year. This is concerning, as their bites can cause allergic reactions while transmitting disease. Lyme disease is very often the usual suspect, but other diseases such as STARI and ehrlichiosis have been known recently to spread through tick bites.
How concerned should we be, and is there anything that we can do in order to protect ourselves? Can we do anything to stop the invasion – or at least deter the pest from reaching us? While stopping a full invasion by yourself may be next to impossible, you may at least prevent the ticks from entering your home.
Why Are There So Many Ticks This Year?
Various factors could have led to the increase in tick populations. Experts say that climate change had a lot to do with this invasion. With the winters getting shorter, it also gives more time for ticks to feed, grow and breed.
The same short winters also gave the lone star tick more time to migrate. This tick was usually found in the south. However, with more warm weather to go on, the tick managed to creep its way farther north as well. In most circumstances, tick activity ceases when winter comes – but now that the warm season is longer, the insects have enough time to conquer new habitats.
The increase in the number of tick carriers has also aided in their egg-laying process. The chipmunk population, along with vole and other small mammals, has been booming. Ticks love attaching themselves to these small mammals, and the more they feed, the more eggs they are likely to produce.
High humidity can also make the environment thrive for ticks – something that may be associated with climate change. As the earth is getting warmer, the warmer air is also able to hold more vapor. This caused many areas to have higher relative humidity, something that added to the increase of the tick population.
What Causes a Tick Infestation?
If you walked through bushy or wooded areas, or perhaps areas with tall grass, then there is a good chance you may have come into contact with a tick.
Ticks thrive in warm weather, and they “travel” by attaching themselves to a host. The tick will bite the skin to get blood, and once it is fed, it will release itself.
Ticks can attach themselves to any part of your body. And when we say “any part,” we also mean areas such as the groin, the underarms, inside the ears, inside the belly button, inside the hair, or behind the knee. Typically, they like to hide in areas where you are not very likely to see them.
They also like to attach themselves to pets – particularly dogs. Since ticks are very small, it may be quite difficult to see them. This gives ticks enough time to reproduce and hide in dark, humid areas of your home.
One female tick can lay between 1,500 and 5,000 eggs. The tick eggs are tiny and difficult to find, these eggs will hatch in a couple of weeks, leading to a huge increase in the number of ticks around your home.
What’s the Forecast for the Tick Infestations?
This mostly depends on where you live, along with the presence of host animals that ticks prefer attaching themselves to. For instance, some ticks – such as the black-legged tick – prefer humid conditions. Other tick types, such as the Lone Star, prefer laying eggs in a dry climate.
Ticks can have life cycles spanning 2-3 years. For this reason, infestations can be affected by last year’s season. For instance, if your area is known to have black-legged ticks – the common spreader of Lyme disease – there is a good chance that the number would increase if your area went through a very humid season.
How to Prevent Ticks from Entering Your Home
Ticks can be very troublesome in their journey to conquer the land. They migrate to different habitats, invade the cities, enter our gardens and even our homes. We have mostly climate change to blame for that, but some of our daily actions can also enable a tick invasion. However, there are certain ways for you to prevent ticks from getting inside your home.
- Check Yourselves and Your Pets
Always check yourself when you enter the house. Also, aside from checking your family members, check your pets as well. Every time they go out, there is a good chance they will bring a “hitchhiker” back with them.
- Wear Clothes that Cover the Skin
If you go in areas where ticks might be present, make sure that you wear clothing that covers your skin. Ticks won’t be able to attach themselves to clothing – so, if they see no skin available, they will likely let themselves fall off.
Not only will this protect you from dangerous tick bites, but it will also prevent the ticks from entering your home and laying eggs. For your pets, you might want to consider pet clothing or anti-tick collars.
- Take Care of Your Yard
Before a tick invasion can reach your house, the creature will have to pass through the yard first. To prevent them from coming further, you may want to make sure the garden is well-maintained. Grass should be no higher than 3 inches, weeds should be pulled out, and debris such as fallen leaves or wood should be cleared away from the yard.
- Install Bird Feeders
Birds tend to keep mice and chipmunks away from your yard – which you will want to do, as they are usually the hosts for ticks. Install some bird feeders and birdbaths in your garden, to keep these small mammals away.
- Keep the Place Clean
Generally, a clean place will lead to fewer or no ticks. Ticks spread the most when they have a dark and humid environment to thrive in, packed with clutter. You have to keep cleaning up and eliminating those tick nesting sites and places where the little buggers feel comfortable.
So What Can We Do?
Ticks are on the increase, and unless we manage to put a stop to climate change, we won’t be able to stop tick progression in nature. What we can do is “re-direct” the invasion by making it as difficult as possible for ticks to thrive in our gardens and our surroundings.