Global Warming Tick Scares are Back

Memento of last time I did some bush garden work without drenching myself in bug repellent - Ixodes Holocyclus - Australia's Paralysis Tick
Memento of last time I did some bush garden work without drenching myself in bug repellent – Ixodes Holocyclus – Australia’s Paralysis Tick. The tick is a lot smaller than you think, not much bigger than a mosquito.

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

According to The Guardian global warming is bringing increased risk of attack from the killer ticks. But like most global warming threats this one is seriously overblown.

Disease-bearing ticks thrive as climate change heats up US

Blood-sucking ticks can spread Lyme disease and are extending beyond their traditional north-eastern range

Oliver Milman @olliemilman
Tue 11 Aug 2020 19.30 AEST

Growing up in north-eastern Ohio, Kimberly Byce spent much of her childhood running around in the woods, with the greatest threat being mosquito bites or sunburn. She can’t remember her parents ever uttering the word “tick”. And yet, in adulthood, disease-laden ticks now blight her family’s life.

The family has been ravaged by the tiny black-legged, or deer, ticks, a creature the size of a pinhead that can carry Lyme disease and other maladies. Byce picked two of the ticks off her body last week, part of a regime that has become a constant worry in the family’s semi-rural household, located about 30 miles north-east of Columbus, Ohio’s capital.

“It’s really wearing on the kids, when they are in the back yard I’m spraying them like a maniac which is kind of putting a lot of fear into them,” Byce said. “I feel like some of their carefree childhood is being taken away but there’s the threat of a lot of damage. What’s scary is that I am the most diligent person with spraying, keeping to trails, being careful, checking for ticks. If I can get them on me, anyone can.”

The clearing of forest for housing and other infrastructure is bringing humans into closer contact with animals that carry disease, such as ticks. Meanwhile, rising temperatures are allowing ticks to become active earlier in the year and then feed deep into autumn, giving them a better chance of surviving winter. While ticks usually target animals such as deer and chipmunks, humans can unwittingly become hosts for their blood meal.Advertisement

“It’s a nightmare scenario,” said Felicia Keesing, a professor of biology at Bard College who has co-authored research linking the heat of the climate crisis to greater tick activity. “We are seeing more tick-borne diseases in more places. Wherever you find ticks, they are spreading.”

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In Australia we have some nasty ticks. Pretty much everything in Australia wants to kill you, ranging from deadly bees to an almost invisible jellyfish the size of the end of your pinky, a slight brush from which 20 minutes later leads to paralysis and weeks of screaming agony. Even our most common ticks carry deadly neurotoxin and horrible diseases – you know you’ve been bitten when your entire limb goes numb.

I feel sorry for the handful of people who suffer medical consequences, but the reality is serious medical complications from a tick bite are rare. Usually you just end up with a small red bump the size of a mosquito bite, which disappears after a month, even if you are bitten by a nasty neurotoxic Australian tick.

For people who suffer an actual infestation in their area, like the Byce family described by the Guardian, spraying the area with DDT would be a more certain solution to their problem than building more wind turbines. But DDT is no longer available for solving large scale pest infestations, thanks to a baseless long term green fear campaign.

60 thoughts on “Global Warming Tick Scares are Back

    • One word, “DEET.” It is safe for human use and available at 100% pure. It works fantastically against mosquitoes AND dog and deer ticks. Been using it pure for 40 years. A slight but not bad odor when first applied, but easily worth it.

      The lower concentrations are not as effective as pure, as in Deep Works OFF.

      DEET, try it.

  1. As white tailed deer populations have grown considerably across the northeast and midwest over the last 50 years, so has the the most common parasite they carry – Ticks! Correlation? Yes! Cause and effect? A lot more probable than faux global warming!

    • I am musing on the same idea.

      Deer ticks? Hmmm… maybe there are more deer due to, oh I don’t know, Green Policies restricting hunting?

      Either that or Covid Warming, I guess.

      • Deer populations fluctuate for a number of reasons and a big one is available food. There are more deer in Indiana now than were found during the first deer count taken in the late 1800s 2019 deer count was 680,000 down from an all time high since the count began of 730,000 in 2015.

    • Exactly J Mac. Nothing to do with climate change or clearing the landscape for that matter – it’s the regrowth and gardens – and over controlled hunting – that is responsible for the massive increase in deer and in mice (Peromyscus species especially), the two ingredients needed for Black-legged Ticks and Lyme disease.

      Also, I find it difficult to believe Kimberly Byce and her claim of a tick free childhood in Ohio. Black-legged Ticks may have been rare, but Dermacentor variabilis and other dog ticks would have been common. They can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever among other nasties. Ticks suck, all of them.

      • Agreed Dave. I’ve pulled ticks off of me in Ohio when I camped there in the early 1970s.

        Nor are children’s ideas about “woods” the same as when they are older. A large wild woods to a child is just a small well tended park to an adult.

        I also remember after playing in a wheat field in Pennsylvania during the early 1960s when I was covered with ticks. So many, that my Father had to remove them.

        Back in the days before DDT was vilified, it was found that one of the best ways to control ticks is to seed areas with DDT treated cotton balls. Mice and other rodents, the winter hosts to ticks, collect the cotton and use them in their nests; eliminating the ticks.

        • Hi ATheoK – As a child growing up in the Maryland countryside we always had to look out for ticks. We were each issued with a small bottle of isopropyl alcohol and a pair of tweezers and made ‘tick soup’ after every romp. Our parents always checked us out in case we missed any.

          The cotton ball trick still works, just with other chemicals. You can find them online or make your own. It is a good way to eliminate any ticks from around your home as long as the larval stages tend to feed on small rodents (so won’t work on Brown Dog Tick). Black-legged Tick should be especially susceptible and should help with American Dog Tick too. Of course, you can still get ticked in the bush on a walk.

          • Hi DaveW:
            Back in the late fifties and early 60s, my Father removed embedded ticks using cigarettes or matches. Which worked on maybe 1 out of 3 ticks.
            Two ticks out of three preferred death by cooking before releasing.

            I’ve never seen an embedded tick release because of alcohol. They tended to die from the alcohol rather than release.
            I have seen freshly attached ticks release from alcohol.

            That time in the wheat field, I had ticks attached all over. My Mother would pull a few ticks off, but not a horde. Nor was she ever successful at matches or cigarette tick removal.

            We always picked up a few ticks while berry picking or hiking and we’d usually have those off before we headed home.

            My parents took us camping practically everywhere campgrounds were found. During tick season, we never found a location without ticks and we’d conduct frequent tick checks every day.

            The wheat field was a surprise because I thought of the field as similar to mown lawns where ticks are rare.
            We had crawled through the field and rolled around in one spot. After hours of playing the mother of the family we were visiting saw us and bemoaned the ticks. All of us were well covered with many ticks firmly attached; visit over.

            Every year I consider putting out a flock of guinea hens. But since my neighbor complained that a previous flock of ducks were eating his flowers. I had no idea they traveled that far. I don’t think he’d like guinea hens any better.
            Those ducks were most effective Japanese beetle prevention ever. Though we didn’t eat the duck eggs during Japanese beetle season. Ducks aren’t the most effective eaters of ticks, but if they spot ticks moving they’ll get them.

            I have used treated cotton balls a couple of times during winter after bad tick seasons. They were used with an insecticide powder considered safe for pets and animals. It worked well under the deer herds dropped ticks later in the summer.

    • White tailed deer are an invasive species on the prairies. The ticks they bring with them attack mule deer and moose and those populations have been virtually destroyed and replaced by white tail deer over the last 40 years or so. I have seen white tail deer with literally thousands of ticks on them. They are immune. Horses, mule deer, and especially moose are extremely sensitive to tack and can die from too many ticks.

  2. I removed hundreds (!) of ticks from my little dog (Yorkshire terrier).
    Sometime a dozen of them after a single walk in a bush.
    They hang like grapes when blood sucked.
    We use “advantix” to keep them away rom the dog, but it helps little.
    Still, the dog seems to be healthy.

    • I get the ticks on dogs off by touching the tick promptly with a blown out match head. This makes the tick’s own head come off with it’s body as well.

      • interesting method, but still there is a danger the tick blows the infected blood back into the dog.
        I use a “lasso” tweezer for blood sucked ticks: it tights the lasso around the tick’s trunk. Then you pull the whole ding away.
        You can make the lasso from any good thread as well.
        For dry (not yet sucked) ticks I use a special “nail pulling” slit.
        Also very effective!
        Nothing remains inside the skin.

      • The tip of a lit cigarette is better; you don’t have to touch the tick, just hold it a few mm away and the tick voluntarily decides to move on to somewhere cooler. Works well for leeches too.

        A very important consideration if you’ve been out in the woods is to have a good friend look for ticks between the cheeks of your butt. Naturally you have to reciprocate if your friend was also out in the woods.

  3. “According to The Guardian…”

    Eric, you do realise you can save on keyboard use by making your entire commentary those four words and then “LOL”.

    • Craig, I was planning to visit Oz before the covid thing happened, still, I hope to get there someday. I am much more fearful of drop bears than ticks, has Climate Change (TM) affected their numbers and range?

  4. My father, a pharmacist, used to anaesthetise by dabbing them with cotton wool soaked in chloroform. Once they stopped burrowing they can be easily removed with tweezers.
    Easy, effective and standard in our family.

    • I have used the same technique using vodka (more available) and, for some reason that I can’t explain, I was always told to hold the body of the tick and not pull but rotate anti-clockwise! Always worked but never dared to try clockwise in case it failed!

  5. You can tell the IPCC doomster shindig is approaching. The drumbeat is building slowly. Expect Al , Greta and the usual suspects to emerge more often in coming months.

    • They (Al , Greta and the usual suspects) seem to have something in common with the ticks:

      They feed and thrive when it’s warm…

    • Ticks? I thought that the article would be about those ticks known as Al Gore and other usual suspects….

    • Yahoo News is providing regular apocalyptic warnings about climate. Until recently, most of the Yahoo US News articles were from Reuters and The Guardian; they are still abundant. However, Yahoo has suspended comments on all news (and Op-Ed) articles. My suspicion is that Yahoo will keep comments suspended until after the November elections.

  6. I grew up 250 metres up a hill in Perthshire Scotland. That particular hill was well known locally for ticks. In fact the whole surrounding area was. Over the years I and other family members were bitten by the little blighters.

    Dieldrin was regularly used as a sheep dip to control parasites. Life as an animal on a hill farm or as a wild animal means parasites and sometimes that can be fatal. Over the years several cattle were lost to Redwater Fever spread by ticks. On the other hand more sheep were lost as road kill.

    Not using control rather than climate change is the likely cause.

  7. The green-crested leftoid is a nastier species of parasite. Often found near universities, on windfarms, or around recently bleached coral. Likes full sun and BLM rallies. Has an affinity for polar bears.

  8. Cover them in vaseline. They fall off. We have a tick removing tool in france . It’s a small plastic, two prong fork. Put it over the tick and twist.

  9. Years ago, I lived with my family in NJ, USA. I was always having to get ticks off the kids. My preferred method was to touch the tick with the tip of an electronics soldering iron to kill it.

  10. You know , there was an old Greek storyteller, around 600 BC, who pointed out what would happen if someone continually issued warnings which turned out to be false….

  11. The ban on use of DDT which is no longer available, thanks to a baseless long term Alarmist terror campaign, has had much bigger effects on people than just suffering from ticks, by allowing large scale suffering and deaths of millions of victims to diseases like malaria.

  12. On our orchard in Australia I am pleased to get paralysis ticks regularly as it shows that they are still surviving in numbers and able to control feral predators.

    The native animals are immune and carry and breed the tick whereas the feral predator [ cat, dog, fox, etc] is the usual victim. When the native hosts are reduced in number, so are the killer ticks. The feral predators increase and extinction of the native species can occur.

    A healthy crop of ticks is a good sign of native species survival.

    I tell people who complain about ticks to pull them out very gently and put them back where they got them.

    Are they actually claiming now that some degree of warming prevents extinctions?

  13. I told Chicken Little to shut the hell up and get to work cleaning up the ticks in my yard. She does a pretty good job because I rarely see them anymore.

    • Guinea hens are great tic eaters as well. Besides, they are fun to watch… will keep you in laughing for hours. We had half a dozen until the fox and coons finally got ’em.

  14. Its overblown to blame only global warming, but Ticks and the pathogens they transmit are an increasing broblem. 16 tick-borne diseases of humans are known.
    If you can’t avoid moving in tick infested areas, using repellents on your Clothing and your skin is the most effective way to prevent a tick bite. But repellents may not be 100% effective so search additionaly on your skin for them. Only searching on your skin as a single measure is not very effective.
    The medical burden of lyme borreliosis is much more bigger than most people think.
    You can get a myriad of symptoms from lyme borreliosis and coinfections with other pathogens.

    The European parliamen is taking action:

    The US Congress introduced the TICK Act:

  15. I live in a small market town in Hampshire and am forever pulling ticks off my dogs after walks in the local countryside (luckily never been bitten myself). Recently the local council has started putting warning posters up explaining the dangers of tick-borne diseases. Strange the Guardian has to run a story about the US when we have a tick problem a bit closer to home. Had to warn a young family the other day who were romping on a field that rolling around in the long glass with shorts and flip-flops might not be the greatest of ideas – as it’s a major dog-walk – there are other things to be concerned about than ticks.

  16. The best way to avoid ticks is to spray clothes with permethrin. It KILLS ticks.

    There is much less deer hunting in the US northeast compared to decades ago. That is the main cause of the spread of Lyme, in this old forester’s opinion.

  17. This paper provides support for an ebb and flow of the disease over thousands of year. This from the abstract:

    “We conclude that B. burgdorferi populations have recently reemerged independently out of separate relict foci, where they have persisted since precolonial times.”

    The alarmist algorithm seems to be; something changed, therefore global warming. The changes documented for lyme disease appear to fit well with well documented past warm periods (e.g. roman) and recent cold periods (e.g little ice age) in North America – no need to invoke AGW.

    It’s not just been expanding north since 1976, but south as well. It’s called Lyme disease after Lyme Connecticut one of at least a couple relatively recent foci of spread, another including Wisconsin as early as 1970.

    Full Abstract:
    Since its first description in coastal Connecticut in 1976, both the incidence of Lyme disease and the geographic extent of endemic areas in the US have increased dramatically. The rapid expansion of Lyme disease into its current distribution in the eastern half of the US has been due to the range expansion of the tick vector, Ixodes scapularis, upon which the causative agent, Borrelia burgdorferi is dependent for transmission to humans. In this study, we examined the phylogeographic population structure of B. burgdorferi throughout the range of I. scapularis-borne Lyme disease using multilocus sequence typing based on bacterial housekeeping genes. We show that B. burgdorferi populations from the Northeast and Midwest are genetically distinct, but phylogenetically related. Our findings provide strong evidence of prehistoric population size expansion and east-to-west radiation of descendent clones from founding sequence types in the Northeast. Estimates of the time scale of divergence of northeastern and midwestern populations suggest that B. burgdorferi was present in these regions of North America many thousands of years before European settlements. We conclude that B. burgdorferi populations have recently reemerged independently out of separate relict foci, where they have persisted since precolonial times.

  18. Homeowners with tick problems can spray everything or use “tick tubes” in a more targeted attack.Tick tubes are the more long term solution after spraying knocks down the infestation.
    Permethrin based insecticides are very effective against ticks and are very low risk to people and dogs. Cats can be more sensitive.

    DIY videos of how to make your own tick tubes very inexpensively are easy to find on YouTube.

    • Exactly.
      I am using an industrially made extractor of the same type.
      However, it works poorly when the tick sits on the dog’s nose.
      The dog is very unhappy when you put such an extractor close to its nose.
      A lasso (done from any strong thread) works even better and the dog is less afraid of it.

  19. I have found that it is not long, less than a couple of hours, after a tick attaches to you, that the area will start to itch.

    If you have been out in the paddocks & start to itch, check the area, rather than just scratch.

  20. While ticks and the diseases they carry was the main gist of the article, many completely missed the campaign to deter people from moving out of the cities to the wilds of the country. All sorts of critters reside in the countryside that are completely unknown in the safe city of your choice.

  21. The USA has seen no significant temperature increase according to our best measurement, the USCRN in the past 15 years.

    So, a tic increase is not due to warming.

  22. ““It’s a nightmare scenario,” said Felicia Keesing, a professor of biology at Bard College who has co-authored research linking the heat of the climate crisis to greater tick activity. “We are seeing more tick-borne diseases in more places. Wherever you find ticks, they are spreading.””

    It’s always a nightmare with these academic parasites. Guess what trough she’ll feed at next?

    Two Bard College professors have been awarded a $60,000 grant to develop network models that better capture the geographic and social complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  23. One point not mentioned in the article is good old fashioned ascertainment bias. Until about 10-15 years ago our provincial government insisted Manitoba had no Lyme disease and any doctor who diagnosed Lyme disease and treated someone for it could lose his license to practice. (Exceptions were made for people who had traveled to Lyme Massachusetts.) Sufferers were labeled as psychologically unbalanced malingerers who had to go to the USA for diagnosis and treatment. Meanwhile vets all over Manitoba were using a standard antibody test for heart worm that included testing for exposure to the bacteria that causes Lyme. And all over the province dogs and cats were testing positive for exposure to Borellia and an occasional sick animal needed to be treated for it. (My cat was one of them.) Eventually, the stubborn stupidity of the government on the topic could no longer be ignored in the face of the veterinary results. Testing began of both ticks and sick humans and Lyme disease was basically everywhere. The reason given for the change in government position on Lyme disease? It simply cannot be that the Almighty Government Bureaucracy was wrong. It must be climate change.

    • The government’s actions were all about MONEY! This is what you get with a government controlled and funded health care system. You can not have the disease because it will cost us (the government) money that has not been budgeted.

      In the US, that is not the case as of yet. If Biden wins, with the almost guaranteed Democrat senate takeover for that electoral outcome, the US will have the same system as the UK and Canada.

      I know of a Canadian citizen who could not get bypass surgery due to Canadian health care quotas and would need to wait almost a year to get the procedure done. He flew to Las Vegas, laid down on the floor of a casino complaining of shortness of breath and was taken to the emergency room. He was in the OR within hours. The blockages were considered an emergency here.

      Where are smart Canadians going to go when the US system is as bad as the Canadian system?

      BTW: Relatives in the Montreal area of Quebec don’t seem to have the same difficulty, being treated much more quickly it seems. Is this a result of Quebec being subsidized by the rest of Canada?

  24. Google “ghost moose” I saw my first one several years ago . It looked like
    a pinto horse. I didn’t know what it was, I’ve lived in the mountains most
    of my life and have had moose around the house regularly and had never
    seen on till that morning. I’ve seen several more since.
    I read that these ticks that cause this are a recent development and
    that they are thought to be the cause of the recent moose population
    loss. That also could be caused by the increasing wolf population or
    both. The ticks don’t seem to effect the deer or elk as I’ve never seen
    a “ghost” variation on those.. But their numbers are currently on the
    decline too, likely from large predators eg. wolves . lions and grizzly bears.
    Just had to add this to the story..

  25. I’ve lived in the same scrub oak forested site for 28 years. For the first 20, from the time the snow melted until it dries out in June, i could expect 3-5 ticks a day on my clothes when I was working outside, Then we had 6-7 years of zero ticks, and this year I saw one. Seems like a diminishing population rather than proliferation.

  26. This article is a classic illustration of the principle that even a blind squirrel will find a nut.

    Deer ticks have, in fact, been extending their North American range during the past decade or so. That the attempt to connect this with climate change is transparently a scare tactic piled upon thousands of previously-discredited scare tactics is emphatically not a good reason to dismiss the health threat posed by increasingly abundant ticks.

    The effects of Lyme disease are painful, debilitating, and can lead to very severe consequences by aggravating other existing health conditions. Anyone who knows they have been bitten by a tick or begins experiencing flu-like symptoms or a red “bullseye”rash several days after spending time in brushy environments should seek out testing for Lyme disease–and understand that the testing regrettably delivers many false negatives and repetition may be highly advisable.

    The alleged global warming connection is a bad joke. The reality of tick-borne illnesses is no joke at all.

    • Agreed. They expanded their range substantially well before that.

      In Manitoba (north of Minnesota/North Dakota) they had been sampling for ticks regularly over years. Ixodes started showing up occasionally in the late 1990s and was presumed to be transient populations as no evidence of breeding populations could be found. That evidence was found in the early 2000s and Ixodes scapularis is considered to be established in Manitoba at this point. We’re considerably colder than Ohio and one heck of a long drive from Lyme, CT or Ohio for that matter.

      Although I would point out that I disagree with the notion of using DDT as a solution to this problem. Blanket spraying with a persistent pesticide isn’t really a useful solution in this instance, given there are less broadly harmful options available in most locations. I do think persistent OC or OP insecticides still have tremendous value in certain areas (bed bugs, termites) applied in restricted manners, but ticks isn’t one of them. The impact on non-targets is too great.

  27. As someone also from northeast Ohio, Byce is suffering from some seriously selective memory. Ticks have always been a worry in this part of the world. Most people ignored the them, however, because they either didn’t carry or we didn’t know about Lyme disease. Tick bites were gross but not worrisome. You put a matchhead to them or covered them in butter or whatever other usually-wrong folk remedy was popular in your area and moved on.

  28. Ticks “quest”. They can sense the CO2 mammals exhale and using that and a sense for body heat find the game trails and paths where mammals frequent. They climb up on weeds or other vegetation holding on with their back legs and with their front reach out waiting to latch on to the mammal as it comes by.

    We humans are a bit harder targets since we’re usually clothed and have a lot less hair to grasp onto as we pass by. If a person wears high lace up boots and blouses their long pants in them or has high socks to pull up over the bottom of their pants and wears long sleeves it makes it much easier to find what ticks may have hitched a ride before they have a chance to bite. Of course a hat of some kind helps also.

  29. Killer ticks is NOT part of Apocalypse BINGO!

    You can’t introduce a new feature over half way…that’s unfair to all of us loyal players!

    Get with the rules already. Sheesh………people ya know?

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