Tick Talk: Don’t Let Your Guard Down in Winter

HYANNIS – People may think a stroll in woods during these cold winter days would be an activity without the hazard of ticks.

You’d be mistaken.

Barnstable County entomologist Larry Dapsis said the Black-Legged Tick, otherwise known as the Deer Tick, can be found searching for hosts during the winter.

He adds that the Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick present only a three-season threat.

Dapsis said the Deer Ticks have been known to last in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. He says that when he worked for Ocean Spray, he regularly traveled to Wisconsin, where the Deer Tick population thrived through weeks of -25 degree temperatures.  

“Ticks have evolved to survive this brutally cold weather as have a lot of other insects. In the case of the tick, they synthesize a chemical called glycerol,” Dapsis explained.

“This is similar to the stuff that’s in your car to protect your radiator – ethyline glycol. So basically, the ticks, before we were making our first automobiles they were making anti-freeze.”

Dapsis said that the ticks will not crawl up through the snow and bite a host, but can emerge from the snow and bite, even if snow is on the ground in other areas.

“What they will do is they’ll crawl down into the leaf litter and so they’re basically protected. If they’re on top of the leaf litter they might be subject to desiccation, which they are prone to because they can’t drink a glass of water. As long as they’re down in the leaf litter they’re protected,” Dapsis said.

By TIM DUNN, CapeCod.com News Center 

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