ORONO, Maine — While the drought is causing problems for a number of farmers across the state, there is an upside. Experts say the hot, dry conditions are helping reduce the population of deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease.
Researchers at the Maine Cooperative Tick Lab in Orono have seen a drop in tick samples over the summer months. The drought is making a big impact on the nymph tick, which is the size of a poppy seed. They emerge in June and July, the last stage before it becomes an adult tick.
Ticks thrive in wet and humid weather. The dry spell is causing populations to be far less active and go into a hibernation-like state.
“The number of nymphs that were submitted to our lab was less than half of what it was last year, we are really trending down,” Griffin Dill, an integrated pest management expert who runs the Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab in Orono, said.
35 percent of the tick sample collected so far this year have tested positive for Lyme.
So far this year, 626 cases of the disease were reported to the Maine CDC, compared to 2,167 in 2019. Experts believe fewer ticks are driving cases down as well. Dr. Sean McCloy is a medical doctor who treats Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Patients with symptoms have dropped since early summer.
“I think this year will be a blip on the radar screen because of that drought, but ticks are still there they are still waiting,” Dr. McCloy said.
Experts say people and their pets still need to take precautions to protect themselves against ticks. As temperatures drop, rain events and falling leaves mean ticks could become active again this fall
Real-time surveillance information on Lyme and tick-borne co-infections go here.
Read more on Maine Tick Data from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab.
For information on Lyme disease and tick-borne illness, click here.