Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported how vector-borne diseases, including tickborne diseases like Lyme have tripled in the past decade-plus.
The Cary Institute’s Dr. Richard Ostfeld has been investigating how wildlife, land use, acorns, and climate change set the stage for tick-borne disease transmission over the past two decades.
Last week, they published some “lessons learned” concerning the ecology of Lyme disease. Here are some examples:
Tiny blacklegged ticks called nymphs pose the greatest threat to people
Nymphal ticks, which are as small as poppy seeds, can transmit infections acquired during their larval blood meals. Nymphs are abundant from May through July.
Climate change is increasing tick-borne disease risk
Blacklegged ticks are expanding their range northward and nymphal ticks are emerging earlier in the spring.
Biodiversity is good for our health
When a variety of birds and mammals are present, blacklegged ticks can feed on non-mouse hosts that are less efficient at transferring the Lyme disease bacterium. This reduces the number of infected ticks. Also, some animals are very efficient at killing ticks. Opossums are fastidious groomers and can kill thousands of ticks each week during tick season.
Predators are a weapon against Lyme disease
Again, another biodiversity benefit. Landscapes that support predators have reduced Lyme disease risk. This is because predators, such as foxes, bobcats, and barred owls control the abundance of white-footed mice.