Normal year for ticks, mosquitos locally

ESCANABA — In the Upper Peninsula, summer weather is associated with the arrival of ticks and mosquitos. Local experts said the area’s populations of both these pests have not been higher than normal this year.

“I’d say it’s been a fair tick season for the month of June,” Delta Conservation District Executive Director Rory Mattson said.

This is likely the case due to the long winter and slow start to summer the Upper Peninsula has experienced this year. Ticks normally start emerging in mid-May. However, this was affected by the fact temperatures in the area have been unseasonably cool.

Michael Snyder, health officer for Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties (PHDM), agreed with Mattson’s assessment of the area’s tick season. PHDM sends live deer ticks people bring in to a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services lab in Lansing for Lyme disease testing each year.

“We have not had that many ticks brought in this year,” he said.

Mattson said he does not expect the area’s tick population to get significantly larger than it has been this summer.

“Now that the weather’s starting to warm up, they should be on the down cycle,” he said.

Snyder shared some tick prevention advice for people planning to go into the woods or other outdoor areas where ticks can be found during the summer months. He said choosing the right bug spray can be very helpful.

“People can use repellent containing DEET,” he said.

Specially-treated clothes can also help people avoid tick bites.

“Wear clothing treated with permethrin,” Snyder said.

Even when taking these precautions, Snyder said people should not assume they are free from ticks.

“After spending time outdoors, people can check themselves over closely to make sure there’s no ticks on them,” he said.

People should be particularly cautious due to the presence of black-legged or deer ticks in the U.P., Snyder said. These ticks can spread Lyme disease, which causes symptoms such as chills and fever, headache, muscle and joint pain and a distinctive “bullseye” rash.

Snyder also encouraged people to put their clothes in a clothes dryer set to high heat for 10 minutes when they come home after being outdoors. This should kill any ticks still on their clothes.

The local mosquito population has been average so far during the summer of 2019, as well.

“There have been mosquitos, but nothing like bad years,” Mattson said.

According to Mattson, this is the case despite the heavy rainfall and snowmelt experienced locally this spring and summer.

“I thought they were going to be a lot worse, with all the water that we’ve had,” he said.

In the early stages of their life cycle, Mattson said mosquitos need water to be at 70 degrees before hatching. Due to the cool temperatures seen in the area until recently, local bodies of water have not consistently reached this temperature.

Snyder also shared tips for dealing with mosquitos in the summer. He said not going outside at certain times can help in this regard.

“Try to avoid early in the morning or after dusk,” he said, noting mosquitos are most active at these times of day.

Attire can also play a role in preventing mosquito bites.

“Wear long sleeves and long pants,” Snyder said.