Icy roads, high heating bills, frozen pipes, shoveling snow. These are all concerns we deal with during a Long Island winter. But ticks? Do we need to worry about ticks in the heart of winter? The answer may come as an unpleasant surprise for you.
Do Cold Winters Kill Ticks?
Ticks are hardy creatures that can survive surprisingly low temperatures and likely survive winter. Unless temperatures remain consistently frigid, it’s estimated that up to 80 percent of ticks can endure Long Island’s winter weather.
Ticks can stay alive in temperatures as low as -2 degrees Fahrenheit. Luckily, they are less active in general, but they will emerge to seek food when the mercury exceeds 40 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as there is no snow on the ground to impede their movement.
For ticks to die off in significant numbers, we would need a stretch of dry, bitterly cold days below approximately 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Long Island winters are becoming warmer on average due to climate change, so with each passing year, it is more likely ticks will be a year-round threat to your health and safety.
How Do Ticks Survive in Winter?
Ticks are highly adaptive and survive low temperatures by burrowing into mulch, leaf debris, or snow, which will serve as insulation from surface air temperatures. These marginal increases in warmth are often enough to keep their internal temperature above the minimum level required for survival. Black-legged ticks, one of the worst vectors for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, are the species most likely to burrow for insulation against cold temperatures and emerge for a blood meal.
Recent studies indicate that ticks may have a sort of natural cryoprotectant or “antifreeze,” and that the amount of water in their cells decreases in frigid weather to prevent them from freezing.
Are Ticks Active in Winter?
While ticks may be less active during the winter, they are still looking for sustenance, and you or your pets can become their next blood meal. Black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks) are more likely to be active than the lone star or dog ticks, but they are the most significant vector of Lyme and other diseases, so don’t let down your guard just because the weather is cold.
If a tick bites you, you can be exposed to multiple tick-borne diseases, including Lyme disease, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, Powassan virus, alpha-gal allergies, or Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These illnesses can be debilitating or even fatal, underscoring the need to protect yourself and your family from these dangerous pests.
Stay Safe Year-Round with East End Tick Control®
Because ticks can survive all but the coldest winter temperatures, Long Island residents need to remain vigilant year-round. East End Tick Control® can establish a tick-free perimeter around your property with Tick Shield, a tick-exclusion protocol designed to be used from December through March. Contact us today to find out how we can keep your family safe from ticks all winter long. Call our Southampton office at (631) 287-9700, our East Hampton office at (631) 324-9700, or our Southold office at (631) 765-9700.