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Temperatures right for ticks: expert

Andrew Hebda, zoology curator at the Nova Scotia Museum, said people and animals have a good chance of picking up a tick if they go into areas where there are shrubs or tall grass now.

“Once the temperature is above 4C in any patch, and that could be in a protected area in the sun, ticks could be active,” he said.

“The snow is an insulator for them, so the cold weather and lack of snow cover we had in January may have knocked them back a bit, but every season is tick season.”

He noted that there were a lot of black-legged ticks around throughout 2017.

The museum identifies tick species for people, so they can make informed decisions on whether they should seek medical advice. If it is a black-legged tick, museum staff will also determine what life stage it’s in and if it has fed.

“It was a gorgeous fall last year, and we were getting more ticks submitted late in the year than usual,” said Hebda. “We had more referrals in October and November than in June and July, and they were also better fed. A significant number had been attached and feeding for days.”

He believes people were carefully checking for ticks during warm weather, but let their guard down as the temperatures dropped.

“The diligence wasn’t there, and that’s not an issue unless there’s a disease like Lyme. Other than that, they’re only an inconvenience.

“People need to be vigilant about removing ticks before they become engorged. Do a tick check, and then do a check the following day to see if you’ve missed somebody.”

Ticks should not be killed before removal, as their final act before death will be to regurgitate, making them more likely to spread disease. They should be removed by grasping them as close to the skin as possible, with tick removers or tweezers, and pulling them straight out.

Hebda added that some people, and animals, attract a lot of ticks, while others are never bothered by them.

Ticks are often carried over quite long distances by birds.

Local veterinarians find ticks on animals throughout the year, with about half being black-legged ticks and the other half being brown dog ticks (which don’t carry Lyme disease).

Information on submitting a tick for identification can be found at http://ns.211.ca/service/51228901_51228908/tick_identification

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