Lyme-Spreading Ticks May Thrive in Warmer Winter Conditions Across North America
by Elizabeth Gamillo/Smithsonianmag.com
New research presented at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology’s 2022 annual meeting has revealed that black-legged ticks carrying Lyme disease flourish in below-freezing weather, reports Science’s Elizabeth Pennisi. The find suggests ticks may also increase their activity in warmer winter conditions, making tick bites more likely to occur throughout the year.
In the United States, 2021 was the fourth hottest year on record. In 39 out of 49 states, excluding Hawaii, winter was recorded as the fastest-warming season, reports Aliya Uteuova for the Guardian. With warmer winter months in the U.S. becoming commonplace, ticks are expanding their reach, and with them, Borrelia burgdorferi, the microbe that causes Lyme disease.
“They’re emerging earlier in the spring, and they’re staying active later in the fall,” said Theresa Crimmins, the director of the USA National Phenology Network and University of Arizona biologist, to the Guardian. “That’s a longer period of time that they could potentially be interacting with humans and potentially biting and spreading diseases.”