As we mentioned in our last blog, the unusual weather conditions have allowed pests to survive and emerge earlier this year. You may have experienced it already: termites swarming, ants marching, and now, ticks and mosquitoes have joined the notorious army and fired up the battle between humans and bugs.
The projected increase in tick population and the reasons behind it are widely discussed across the media. The change of acorn crop amount is considered another cause of the rise in tick population. It is a perfect example of the food chain; the white-footed mouse and other rodents feed on acorn crops, the increased acorn crops in recent years has boosted the rodent population, giving ticks plentiful food sources. This year, acorn crop amounts reduced to normal, that means ticks will probably have fewer mice to feed on. Thus, people and pets will likely become the second best food source to ticks.
Ticks are gruesome critters. Adult ticks have eight legs and look almost like spiders when they aren’t engorged with blood. Once they latch onto a person or animal and begin to draw blood, they can grow to between ¼ and ½ inch long, making ticks very noticeable when they are fully engorged.
Ticks are famously known for carrying Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and now a more troubling tick-borne disease may be emerging. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, Powassan virus is also transmitted by the deer tick and 75 cases have been reported to the CDC. Most of the cases are reported from the Northeast and the northern part of the Midwest. Powassan virus can cause damage to the brain and result in death or permanent disability in 60% of cases. The Powassan virus can be transmitted from the tick in 15 minutes, which has made the virus deadlier compared to Lyme disease.
It’s not easy to identify diseased ticks, the best way to protect yourself is to minimize the risk of being bit by all ticks. Avoid tall grass and wooded areas, wear closed-toe shoes, and tuck your pants into socks or boots for extra skin protection. Insect repellent with DEET or picaridin or IR3535 are recommended by the EPA and the CDC. After spending time outside, check your body and your pets carefully. Wearing light-colored clothing can also make ticks easier to detect.
If you’ve been bitten by a tick, seek medical attention if flulike symptoms or rash appear. If the tick has been removed, it’s wise to bring it in for testing by a state health department for any potential diseases.
Mosquitoes can be found throughout the world, including all regions in the U.S. They pose a greater threat to man’s health than any other pest. Within more than 175 mosquito species in North America, at least 60 of them have been identified as disease carriers. Common diseases carried by mosquitoes include Zika, West Nile Virus, Malaria, Encephalitis, Yellow fever, Dengue fever and Chikungunya virus. The bite itself can be quite annoying, mosquitoes are known to pack a powerful, itchy bite, and the itchiness will increase if you can’t stop scratching it. To the ones who are more sensitive to mosquito bites, some severe reactions such as welts and hives may occur.
Dusk and dawn are prime biting time for mosquitoes. If you are enjoying the outdoors during these times, make sure you wear long sleeves and pants to shield your skin. Wearing a bug repellant with DEET can also help to keep mosquitoes at bay. If you’ve already been bitten, don’t scratch it, wash it off with soap and cold water or treat it with Benadryl and 1 percent hydrocortisone cream if the itchiness persists. Consult with your doctor if there are symptoms of infection.
Mosquitoes are drawn to standing water. Every 48 hours, empty items in your yard that hold water. Even the smallest amount of water held in a leaf or bottle cap can be enough for mosquitoes to breed. You can also make your yard less hospitable to mosquitoes by mowing regularly, keeping vegetation away from your home’s foundation and clearing away leaves and debris.