As temperatures continue to rise, people will be headed outdoors to soak up spring. The warmer weather means outside fun & games, evenings on the patio, and nature strolls. After an arduous winter it’s too easy to throw caution to the wind and bound outdoors, sandals and beach towels in tow. However, this year especially, please remember to take a few pest-safety precautions. You may have noticed on local news outlets that some experts are predicting a high-population of ticks and other pests like mosquitoes. Nuisance aside, these pesky bugs pose a serious health risk to us and our pets.
Logic dictates that a cold snowy winter would eradicate any insects harboring outdoors, however this is not the case. The record-setting snowfall acted as a blanket: “We know snow insulates, so it makes sense that it would be protective for ticks…” said Rick Ostfeld, an ecologist at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies in New York. Connecticut researches recently set out to test this theory and indeed discovered a correlation between heavy snow cover and high tick populations the following season.
Ticks become more active as the weathers warms and pass through forested areas and tall grasses by latching onto people and animals. While they may not be too mobile on their own, experts have noticed marked increases in the population at non-forested areas such as campuses, parks, and hardscaped areas – though numbers can vary by vast amounts in small spaces. Unlike mosquitoes, which are active during specific times and favor certain areas that are easily targeted by pesticide trucks in about 200 Massachusetts communities, ticks are difficult to target. Largely, state officials say they are focusing on educating residents to protect themselves with tick checks, covering up when outside, and using tick-killing sprays on footwear and outerwear.
It may come as a surprise that Massachusetts has dedicated zero funding in regards to tick-borne illnesses. This is especially stunning when compared with the $11 Million spend on the counting, control, and education for mosquito-borne diseases. In the past 40 years, Lyme disease has risen to be one of the top reported infectious disease in Massachusetts. Two years ago the CDC, using a new way of measuring Lyme disease diagnoses, said cases of Lyme were likely 10 times more common than previous national counts. Massachusetts did receive $40,000 in federal funding for Lyme surveillance and education, however local experts insist that is not enough. A special state Lyme commission suggested an investment of less than $300,000 for a public education program, yet no money has been set aside. Additionally, the commissions other recommendations such as promoting more awareness in the medical community & better disease surveillance have not been adopted.
There are currently six tick borne illnesses however that number is expected to rise. In the past two years 5 cases of Powassan virus have been reported in the state, whereas the potentially fatal virus which has no known treatment was unheard of in New England. An $111,000 Community Innovation Challenge grant to 32 communities last year subsidized testing costs of ticks. Findings included the discovery of a tick species, the Lone Star tick, in counties that had not been previously recorded as well as that bite events, not just susceptibility to illness, were higher in children and elderly. Though the state has cancelled the grant program, the Laboratory of Medical Zoology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst will still tests ticks for a $50 fee for residents who mail them in. In an effort to involve the community and close the gap for residents, researchers are working to grow the program. Estimates for robust tick surveillance and prevention program in any given community come in at about $1,000 to $3,000 of a communities state funding.
Exercise caution! The CDC recommends daily tick checks after being outdoors, even in your own yard as any nuisance wildlife can transmit an infected insect into places you would never consider. Use repellants, shower soon after being outdoors & do a thorough bite check, and contact your doctor immediately if you develop a rash or fever.
LCM PLUS offers an all-natural pest control service which is safe for children & pets. Proven effective in repelling ticks, mosquitoes, flies and more we recommend considering having your property treated. Typical safe-guards such as no standing water in barrels and removing brush piles may not be enough this year. Remember that mosquitoes need only 1/2″ of water to pupate.