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SUNY-ESF expert says environmental shifts are making ticks more aggressive

FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Another mild winter and other favorable factors likely means the 2024 tick population will be equal to last year or larger, some researchers say. (CDC via AP, File)
James Gathany/AP
/
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows a blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. Another mild winter and other favorable factors likely means the 2024 tick population will be equal to last year or larger, some researchers say. (CDC via AP, File)

Researchers are studying the link between climate change, the increase in tick population and the rise of Lyme disease cases.

Brian Leydet, Professor of Disease Ecology and Epidemiology at SUNY-ESF, said that in the Northeast there's been an expansion of the Blacklegged tick, the tick that causes Lyme disease, due to changes in environmental conditions.

"Whether it's the humidity, the temperature, the photoperiod, there's been more areas that are susceptible to infestations or establishment of this tick population," Leydet said.

Leydet said these shifts in the environment and the warmer winters lead to increased adult tick activity and biting rates, leading to a rise in Lyme disease cases.

"The more cold and warm events in the extremes we have, the more likely those ticks are spending that energy, that finite energy store they have," Leydet said. "And what we know about the Blacklegged tick is that when it gets hungry it gets hangry, and it gets more aggressive, and it wants to bite more people and more things."

Leydet advises doing a tick check every time you are outside, even if it's in your own backyard, as finding a tick early and removing it can help reduce your risk of disease.

You can also send your ticks to the SUNY Upstate Tick Testing Laboratory to test whether they carry diseases. The program is no longer free and will cost $37 for people in Onondaga County and $75 for other New York state residents.

Ava Pukatch joined the WRVO news team in September 2022. She previously reported for WCHL in Chapel Hill, NC and earned a degree in Journalism and Media from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. At UNC, Ava was a Stembler Scholar and a reporter and producer for the award-winning UNC Hussman broadcast Carolina Connection. In her free time, Ava enjoys theatre, coffee and cheering on Tar Heel sports. Find her on Twitter @apukatch.