Study Says Disease-Carrying Ticks Are Emerging Earlier

Feb 18, 2015

Dr. Richard Ostfeld surveys ticks collected on a white drag cloth at a field site on the Cary Institute's campus.
Credit Courtesy of Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies/Sam Cillo

A new study shows that ticks carrying Lyme disease are emerging earlier and spreading into new geographic regions.

In the northeastern United States, warmer spring temperatures are leading to shifts in the emergence of the blacklegged ticks that carry Lyme disease and other tick-borne pathogens. At the same time, milder weather is allowing ticks to spread into new geographic regions. Study co-author Dr. Richard Ostfeld is an ecologist with the Millbrook-based Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. He says nearly two decades of data revealed climate warming trends correlated with earlier spring feeding by nymphal ticks, sometimes by as much as three weeks. Ostfeld says that if this persists, Lyme Disease Awareness Month will have to move from May to April. The study was published this week in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B.