Pumpkin Picking? Don't Forget the Tick Repellent
Most people think of ticks as summer pests, so it may surprise some to learn that ticks stick around all year, even in New England.
Even when it gets cold?
A Tick for All Seasons
When the weather outside is frightful, ticks go into diapause. This is best defined as a time when the tick is inactive, resulting in an extremely low metabolic rate. Essentially, they are riding the line of staying just barely alive.
During this time of diapause, other species of ticks, such as the blacklegged ticks (the buggers who transmit Lyme) take full advantage of their lacking competition. Wherever the temperature remains above freezing with the snowless and iceless ground, those ticks will still be on the hunt.
Why are these blacklegged ticks not taking the winter off, you may ask?
Typically, the reason is some adult blacklegged ticks have not secured a hearty meal. If they have not eaten, it is a common tick behavior to not stop their hunt. A reason that this happens is that females who are hoping to lay eggs in the spring need to have a full belly. These are the ticks that would not go fully dormant in the winter months, despite the colder temperatures.
Raining on Your Pumpkin Patch Parade
Think about the timeline of this... As the temperature outside is settling into a nice, cool, consistent 45 degrees, we as humans want to take full advantage of the dwindling sunny, crisp days.
Depending on where you live, hiking could be a fall essential for you and your family. Before you know it, it is October and you trade in your shorts for jeans and wear sweaters consistently for hayrides and pumpkin patches.
Just don’t forget, this is the exact time the blacklegged ticks are out searching for their last meal. Summer is falsely considered the only season when ticks feed but really speaks to the fact that summer is the peak time for humans to be outside. If you are outside in the fall just as often, you are just as much at risk of a tick encounter.
Is Your Skin Crawling Yet?
If it is, let’s go over some ways to make sure ticks keep you and your family off of the menu this fall when you are out and about. Before going outside, refresh your memory on where ticks might be. Remember to avoid any tall grassy areas, heavily wooded areas, or areas with low-hanging leaves. Does this scene sound familiar? If it does, that could be because it’s your own backyard.
To keep the ticks at bay, fall clean-up is a must! Raking, lawn mowing, and hedge clipping are all wonderful tactics to keep the ticks from crawling onto you, your kids, and your dog. Another way to help fight the tick fight is to wear pretreated clothing, especially if you live in a heavily wooded area.
Leave the Patch with Pumpkins… Not Bites
Don’t let these ticks prevent you from having a good time this season! The pumpkins are waiting to be picked and there is pumpkin-flavored everything to try. Just make sure when you return from the pumpkin patch that you check the hot-button areas for a tick bite. These are the warm places on your body, the pits (arm, elbow, and knee), the scalp, and in between the legs.
Since Lyme and all the other diseases these pests carry are transmitted through a bite, it is imperative that the tick is located and removed 48 hours or less from when it attaches to your body. This improves your chance of not being the tick’s last meal before diapause. If you or a family member is bitten, inform your doctor and keep a watchful eye on the site.
Interested in learning more about tick prevention? Check out our tick control page to get the full scoop about these year-round trouble makers.