IRON MOUNTAIN - Woodticks and other insects are biting early this year.
Phil Pellitteri, distinguished faculty associate for the insect diagnostic lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said ticks woke up early, likely due to the record-breaking temperatures northeastern Wisconsin and the U.P. experienced in February and March.
Record temperatures set in the Iron Mountain area were in the 50s and low 60s in February and the mid 60s, high 70s, and low 80s in March.
Diane Luczak of the Spring Lake Animal Shelter in Iron Mountain applies a flea and tick treatment to Moose, a black lab who is up for adoption at the shelter. Because of the warm weather, ticks are already out in full force.
Theresa Peterson/Daily News Photo
Scott Reuss, agriculture/horticulture agent for the Marinette and Florence County UW-Extension, said wood or dog ticks, and deer ticks, officially called the blacklegged tick, are about four to six weeks early. That shouldn't change how many ticks are in the woods this year, he added.
"The expectation is we will see them earlier, not more of them," he said.
Although the winter weather was not cold and there wasn't as much snow, population dynamics for ticks is unknown.
"They (wood ticks) are always around, but are more active in the spring and summer," Reuss said.
Wood ticks are more active in the spring and early summer.
"The deer tick tends to be active early and then again late," Reuss said. "The deer tick is active in cooler temperatures, and tend to be found in the fall, but can potentially be found year-round."
If there is a cool summer, they could be active throughout the summer months.
Reuss added deer ticks are also so small they are not always visible to humans.
Pellitteri said adult ticks carry Lyme disease at two times the rate as the nymphs.
"But we know more people get the disease from nymphs, which are harder to find and not pulled off as quickly," he said.
Anna Jahns, wildlife technician for the Florence Natural Resources & Interpretive Center, said a tick has three distinct life phases and it kind of needs blood during all of them.
"Shortly after they hatch, they need to find blood within a certain time frame, and shed to get to being an adult tick," Jahns said.
Pellitteri said a tick's life cycle is two years.
"A tick sheds from larvae or nymph and molts again from nymph to adult," he said.
"Once a female has fed often enough to form eggs, she lays her eggs and dies."
Insect specialists assume a wood tick's maximum living temperature is between 100 and 105 degrees.
"They have no way of cooling their body," Pellitteri said.
Ticks go dormant when temperatures are too high. They are not as active in the heat of summer.
"We are ridiculously way above for the number of growing days. Insects pay attention to warmth," Reuss said.
Reuss noted he was bit by his first mosquito more than two weeks ago.
"The insects that have a shorter life cycle, we will have to deal with more," Reuss said. "Some of the soft-like species and some mosquito species may have extra generations."
In a warm year, there can be two generations of insects when normally there is one generation.
"If the trend continues this year, in the mid- to late summer there could be an influx of these pests again," Reuss said.
Jahns added, "It got warm early, and they came out."
To avoid ticks, officials at the UW-Extension recommend the following for those going out in the woods:
- Wear light-colored clothing so that ticks can be easily spotted.
- Tuck pant legs into boots and/or sock.
- Use DEET insect repellent or any other insect repellent.
Lyme disease, a bacterial infection, is spread by deer ticks.
"They are out in full force already. Any pet owners need to take precautions and start a treatment regimen," Reuss said.
Ticks should be carefully removed from pets by either using tweezers or fingers protected with a tissue or gloves.
The tick should be pulled off slowly and firmly and disposed of either by flushing it down the toilet or dunked in rubbing alcohol.
The area of a pet where the tick was pulled off should be cleaned with alcohol and antibacterial ointment. If there is a small hole where the tick was, watch for a few days to make sure an infection does not occur.
Lisa M. Hoffmann's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.