It’s a common misconception that ticks hibernate or die in the winter. The reality is that they are always there, waiting for the opportunity to feed (and in many cases spread tick-borne illnesses)
All across New England, winter is here. Ski areas are opening, Christmas is just around the corner, and the leaves are off the trees and on your lawn. Hopefully, by now, you have done a comprehensive cleanup around your home, removing all the leaf litter that ticks love. As we put Summer and Fall in the rearview, it’s easy to think that tick season has passed as well. But don’t be fooled, ticks don’t care about seasons, they only care about temperature, and if there is one thing us New Englanders know, it’s that we can hit temperatures well above freezing all throughout winter.
We frequently have clients ask why we continue treatments so late into the year. The reason is that you can expect to see deer ticks as long as the temperatures stay above freezing and the ground is not frozen. In New England, those conditions can last well into December. We also speak to clients who are astounded by the number ticks they see during hikes or long walks over the holidays. Ticks burrow into the ground or under debris and snow for the cold seasons, if it gets warm, the ticks will surface and look for hosts for food. Ticks die when exposed to temperatures below freezing, so unless there is a warm day to draw them out then a prompt cold snap, they can emerge and submerge as they please throughout winter.
When Are Ticks Most Active?
According to mass.gov “Although tick activity is weather dependent, there are two peaks during the year; the first begins in March/April and lasts through August, and the second occurs in October-November.” Which you can see highlighted in the chart below.
The key to the above statement from mass.gov however is “weather dependent”. The reason being is that all winter long, there is the chance in ANY month of being exposed to a tick.
Tick season is not a season, it’s a range of temperatures and this is a common misunderstanding across the tick control industry.
Once winter hits and temps drop below freezing and the ground freezes, ticks that tend to transmit diseases in the US will become inactive. They go into a hibernation-like state referred to as “diapause”, however, the black-legged tick (also known as a deer tick) can become active when temperatures rise.
“The reason is that some of the adult black-legged ticks may not have found a meal before the end of the fall. Because the female adults need to feed to lay eggs in the spring, those that haven’t found a meal don’t go fully dormant during the winter...And black-legged ticks may carry not only Lyme disease but also a “whole laundry list” of other pathogens, Stromdahl says, including anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and the deadly Powassan virus.” (Washington Post)
Where Do Ticks Go In The Winter?
Generally, ticks stay in the leaf litter or wooded areas where they are normally found. Hence why fall cleanups are so important to eliminating ticks on your property in the Spring. They use natural debris and snow as a protective insulators while they lay dormant. Some ticks may burrow underground before the freeze as well.
Protect Yourself From Ticks, Even In Winter
At Pure Solutions, we continue to treat our client’s properties through November. Just last November, Worcester, Providence, and Boston had six days in November where the high temperature was 70+ degrees, and the ticks became active, in search of one last feed before the cold set in. People and pets must take precautions throughout the winter. Keeping up with your routine tick spray treatments is key throughout November at the least. We also recommend using a non-toxic insect repellent anytime you are recreating outdoors, wear light colors, long sleeves, and pants tucked into your socks so ticks are easy to spot, and can’t get under your clothes and make sure you do thorough tick checks when you return home. To be safe, place your outerwear directly into the dryer as the dry heat will kill any ticks that want to “take a ride inside”.
If you are interested in learning more about our recurring organic tick spray treatments or have questions about how best to manage ticks around your property contact us today.