The first day of autumn may spell the official end of summer, but it’s not the end of tick season.
In fact, things are starting to ramp up as the summer’s deer tick nymphs are turning into this fall’s adults. Numbers of the Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks will continue to rise, peaking in October.
Right now, according to one of the state’s top tick experts, the emerging adult deer ticks have plenty of company.
“September is kind of an odd month when it comes to ticks,” according to Griffin Dill, who runs the University of Maine Tick Laboratory. “It’s the time when tick activity is quite low, but there are nymphs, immature ticks and adult ticks all out at the same time so you are seeing all three life stages at once.”
Over the next several weeks, Dill said, the numbers of adult deer ticks will increase and they will become quite active as they search for a mate, find their final host of the season and lay eggs. It only stops when temperatures drop below freezing for an extended period of time.
“They could be out well into December,” Dill said. “Over the past couple of years we have seen warm temperatures into December and I have even gotten reports from people who have picked up deer ticks Christmas Eve or Christmas day.”
If there is any good news, it’s that the dog tick activity is done for the season, according to Dill, after the worst summer on record for that tick.
Maine is home to several species of ticks, but it’s the deer ticks that are of greatest concern because they carry and transmit Lyme disease, a serious illness that can cause rashes, joint pain, nerve pain and inflammation of the brain or spinal cord.
According to test results from the University of Maine Tick Lab, about 40 percent of deer ticks in the state carry Lyme disease.
Dill urges everyone venturing outside in Maine to be vigilant and take steps to keep ticks off themselves, children and pets.
“In the spring and summer we are accustomed to having all these biting pests and people are more on top of it,” he said. “Now as it starts to get cooler and those biting pests are going away, that can of bug spray often goes away as well, just as the deer tick life stage is really ramping up.”