UNH Expert Urges Caution as Tick Season Picks Up in New Hampshire

May 18, 2016

This map from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention charts the spread of Lyme disease reports from 2002 to 2014.

This year’s relatively warm and dry winter probably didn’t do New Hampshire any favors when it comes to curbing its tick population — so people should continue to be vigilant in screening for the invasive insects.

“Evidence suggests that they kind of survived the winter pretty well,” UNH Cooperative Extension Entomologist and Integrated Pest Management Specialist Alan Eaton said on Wednesday’s edition of The Exchange

“In order for us to have a high mortality, we would need to have cold conditions in combination with bare ground. And we didn’t have that too much, so I’m sorry to report that they probably survived relatively well.”

(See below for a primer on what you need to know about spotting ticks and preventing the spread of tick-borne illnesses.)

At the same time, Eaton noted, the drought throughout last fall might’ve helped to knock back some of the state’s tick population — at least temporarily — but it remains to be seen how the younger insects emerging right now have fared this year.

When it comes to black-legged ticks — the kind known for spreading Lyme disease — Eaton said we’re at the point in the year when activity is picking up among nymph ticks, the younger ones that most frequently spread the disease. These ticks are smaller — only about the size of a poppy seed, by Eaton's description — and generally harder to see or feel than other, older ones.

According to the CDC, about 96 percent of the Lyme disease cases in 2014 were concentrated in 14 states — including New Hampshire. 

“We’re in the period now when the risk is highest of acquiring these things, and it will stay high through all of June and a fair amount of July, depending on how much rain we get,” Eaton said.

To hear the full conversation on preventing and detecting tick-borne illnesses, listen to the audio below.

For more on ticks and Lyme disease in New Hampshire:

Credit Sara Plourde, NHPR