As fall has come into full swing and the warm summer weather has been replaced by brisk, cold days, one may think that ticks, mosquitos, and the other pests that are prevalent during the warmer weather will disappear. However, while some pests do die out due to the onset of cold winter weather, you may be surprised to learn what happens to ticks during the winter.
Do Ticks Die Because of Winter Weather?
During the winter, ticks have the ability to survive in a variety of different ways and do not die off or simply “go away” in response to the cold. Depending on the species and the stage in its life cycle, ticks can survive the winter months by latching on to a host or staying dormant. The warm skin and fur of an animal host, for example, provides the tick with protection from the cold and the necessary sustenance to outlast a cold winter. Similarly, ticks can hide in the leaf litter that is prevalent in the wooded or brushy areas they often populate, using the cover of the leaves to protect from the cold. In the case of soft-shell ticks, they survive by burrowing underground and remaining dormant in dens for the duration of the winter. Even in the event of a snowfall, ticks under the surface of a leaf layer or in a burrow will only be insulated by the layer of snow and will remain unaffected provided they remain underground or under the leaves.
Can Ticks Survive in the Open During Winter?
The ability of a tick to survive in the open during the winter is entirely dependent on various factors, including climate, region, and species. Some types of ticks can be active if the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit and the ground is dry and not icy. The species of a tick also plays a factor in its activity: the American dog tick and lone star tick are not usually active during fall and winter months, while blacklegged ticks, which also carry Lyme disease, can remain active provided the temperature remains above freezing. There is even a type of tick known as a winter tick, which is prevalent in the Northeastern part of the country. These ticks hatch during the late summer to early fall months, spending the duration of the fall seeking out a host, such as a moose or sometimes deer, to latch onto for the winter months. However, despite being classified as winter ticks, these ticks are likely to die if they are unable to find a host in the time before winter.
While ticks are much less prevalent and pose less of a threat to you or your pets during the winter than the warmer summer months, you should still keep an eye out for ticks during the cold months. It is possible for them to be active and latch on when looking for a warm place to hide.
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