DC-area tick population booming; how to protect yourself

Fully engorged ticks can be enormous. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)
Fully engorged ticks can be enormous. Ticks in the D.C. region are thriving along side healthy populations of small rodents like chipmunks, voles and mice, critters are surviving in greater numbers thanks to recent mild winters. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland) (Courtesy Mike Raupp)
Clockwise from the top: The blacklegged tick can carry and transmit Lyme disease, the lone star tick can transmit several illnesses such as ehrlichiosis that presents with flu like symptoms and the American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)
Clockwise from the top: The blacklegged tick can carry and transmit Lyme disease, the lone star tick can transmit several illnesses such as ehrlichiosis that presents with flu like symptoms and the American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland) (Courtesy Mike Raupp)
A bull's eye rash is one of the symptoms indicating Lyme disease. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)
A bull’s eye rash is one of the symptoms indicating Lyme disease. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland) (Courtesy Mike Raupp)
This lone star tick demonstrates that ticks can move faster than you might expect. (Courtesy Mike Raupp)
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Fully engorged ticks can be enormous. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)
Clockwise from the top: The blacklegged tick can carry and transmit Lyme disease, the lone star tick can transmit several illnesses such as ehrlichiosis that presents with flu like symptoms and the American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)
A bull's eye rash is one of the symptoms indicating Lyme disease. (Courtesy Mike Raupp/University of Maryland)

Washington — Several mild winters have been friendly to small rodents in the D.C. area, boosting tick populations, according to a University of Maryland entomologist.

“Students and faculty working in the field are simply reporting five to 10 times as many ticks this year as they might see in a normal year,” Mike Raupp said. “Many, many more ticks.”

This time of year is ripe for ticks to transmit viruses and bacterial diseases such as Lyme disease. So Raupp advises homeowners to take measures to control tick populations.

The ticks feed on small rodents like mice, voles and chipmunks. Populations of such small animals are thriving, providing a more bountiful food source for the ticks.

“If you can reduce your small rodent population, you’re going to also dramatically reduce your tick population,” Raupp said. “So clean up that landscape, get rid of clutter.”

His recommendations include:

  • Remove brush and wood piles
  • Trim low-hanging vegetation
  • Cut the lawn to the very edge of meadow or wooded areas
  • Landscape to reduce small plants, weeds and tall grasses
  • Set up play equipment in lawn areas versus wooded areas

“Play areas, gym sets, slides and things like that should not be placed back in the forest edge where the small mammals and ticks are likely to be,” Raupp said.

Raupp also urges anyone spending time outdoors to apply insect repellent.


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