Experts say an uptick in tick bites can be expected following a nationwide growth trend with the bloodsucking parasites.
“I expect this year to be a rough one for ticks,” Ryan Reed, a natural resource program specialist with the Department of Conversation and Natural Resources, said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of reported cases of lyme disease in the U.S. has tripled since the late 1990s.
“When I first started to hunt 35 years ago, you just didn’t worry about ticks,” Reed said.
Tick bites can happen at any time, but the most at risk times of the year are during spring and summer, Reed said.
After a mild winter, Reed said he expects “very little tick mortality” to have occurred during the past couple of months. But Reed also said the factors contributing to tick population growth are more uncertain than just blaming a trend of mild winters.
“Even if it was the perfect winter for killing ticks, that doesn’t mean we could expect less ticks,” Reed said.
Ty Ryen, a Venango and Forest County service forester, said there are a lot of factors that can affect tick populations. A notable one is to consider the acorn crop because that affects mice populations that are big carriers of ticks, Ryen said.
“I work in Venango and Forest counties and ticks can vary,” Ryen said. “I can be in one area and not have any ticks on me and be in a different area and be absolutely covered,” he added.
Ticks are located on the ground in leaf covered areas where insects stick out their antennae and wait to latch on.
“As soon as you step off the trail into that leaf litter or grass that’s where they will get you,” Ryen said. “It’s not like they are hanging in the trees waiting to jump on you…they are only in that leaf litter and in that brush.”
“You need to be just as vigilant in the urban areas as you are in the forest,” Ryen said.
Checking pets is also important, said Ryen, who gets his dogs a vaccination once a year for lyme disease.
“If you have children and animals you need to be extra cautious,” Ryen said.
It’s important not to be afraid but to just be vigilant of ticks, Ryen said.
Recommended procedures according to Reed and Ryen include using insect repellents, wearing long sleeve shirts, wearing pants that are tucked into socks, wearing clothes that are light in color to spot ticks easier and thoroughly checking your clothes and body for ticks.
“This is the reality in our state now, we must do these things,” Reed said. “You can pick up a tick just about anywhere now.”