KSN Storm Track 3 Digital Extra: Why ticks do not die during the cold, varieties found in Kansas

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As the temperatures turn colder, many outdoor enthusiasts believe that ticks begin to die and they are no longer a concern for the winter season. I decided to look into this theory as my dog, Phog, and I encountered some ticks earlier in October.

Ticks are slow-crawling and wingless parasites that exclusively feed on humans and animals. There are two kinds of ticks, both hard and soft. The hard ticks are the ones to watch for as they pose the greatest risk to humans and animals. Ticks thrive in tall grass, weeds and brushy environments. They crawl onto the vegetation, waiting for a host to rub against it, then latch on to feed.

Here in Kansas, we have 4 types of hard ticks. The American dog tick, the Lone star tick, the Brown dog tick and the Black-legged (Deer) tick. There is no official “tick season” but each individual species has its own active period. The adult American dog ticks are active between March and September. The Lone star ticks can be found earlier, from February through June. Brown dog ticks can actually be found year round as it is the most common tick to find its way inside shelters and homes. Black-legged ticks are active in the spring and then again during the fall and early winter.

So, do ticks die in the winter? No, not in an average Kansas winter! However, if conditions are right, ticks can die under extreme frigid conditions for a prolonged period of time. While most species do not die in the winter, they do become less active or dormant. During the winter, if warmer air sticks around, ticks can and will stay active.

If you ever encounter ticks on you or your pets, it is important to remove them immediately. The most effective way is to grasp them with tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Remove the tick slowly as pulling it too fast could result in the head staying attached. Also, the common practice of burning the tick is not necessary. It is important to note that if you experience flu-like symptoms for 10-14 days after removal, you should contact your physician immediately as ticks are prone to spreading disease.

The best way to avoid ticks all together is to keep you and your animals out of grassy and brushy areas. If you decide to venture out, there are repellants that you can try to keep the ticks away, as well as wearing long clothing to cover your skin.

When you get home, immediately check your skin for ticks if you were in a suspect area. Ticks removed within hours of attachment are much less likely to transmit disease.

There are four stages to a tick’s life, including the egg, larva, nymph and adult stages. Once an adult female engorges enough blood from the host, she drops off and lays her eggs. Once she lays over 1,000 eggs, that marks the end of her life and she dies.

Ticks do not jump from trees rather they latch on from brush and grass around your legs. Also, the biggest carrier of Lyme disease comes from the Black-legged (Deer) tick. The Deer tick gets its name because this specific tick is transmitted easily through the deer population.

In summary, ticks do not die off completely in the winter, but you will typically notice a big decrease in activity.

-Meteorologist Warren Sears

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