EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Spring is just around the corner, meaning tick season will soon be upon us.
It remains to be seen whether the mild winter will have an impact on tick populations, according to University of Rhode Island (URI) professor Dr. Thomas Mather.
Mather, a tick expert, tells 12 News the driving factor for determining how active or inactive the upcoming tick season will be is based on the weather conditions in May.
“The stage that emerges and causes most cases of Lyme Disease become active in May and it’s usually still fairly moist and humid,” Mather explained. “As the summer wears on, we often get episodes of drying conditions and that is hard on these little nymphid, poppy-seed sized, black-legged ticks.”
Mather said the more dry periods that Southern New England experiences during the summer, the more ticks die off.
In summer’s past, the region has experienced plenty of dry periods, though the opposite has happened as well.
“There have been some years where we didn’t have drying in the summertime and those were years with extremely high tick counts and cases of Lyme Disease reported,” Mather said.
Mather said there’s been a huge increase in the population of one tick species in particular — the Lone Star tick.
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Data from the University of Rhode Island shows that during 2015-2018, the Lone Star tick was present across Rhode Island, primarily in Jamestown. However, during 2019-2022, the population of Lone Star ticks has grown by 300%, with the epicenter remaining in Jamestown.
Will the mild winter lead to a worse tick season?
The short answer is not necessarily. However, Mather said due to the mild temperatures, ticks were able to be more active throughout the colder winter months. That means encounters were slightly increased compared to a normal or colder season, but this won’t necessarily lead to a worse season.
Where would I typically find ticks around my yard?
Mather said nymphs (pre-adult ticks) often live in a shady, slightly moist habitat, typically on the edge of yards. Ticks are able to stay hydrated by capturing water from grass, leaves and branches.
What can I do if I find a tick on a pet, child or myself?
You can get advice from a tick expert quickly by using “Tick Smart,” whic is an app that allows you to send in a picture of the tick to an expert. The expert will respond with what type of tick it is and the necessary steps you should take following up.
To download the app, you can scan the QR code in the image below or visit the TickSpotter website.