Harsh Northeast Winter No Hindrance to Hungry Ticks

ALBANY (AP) -

Think you’re safe from ticks because the harsh winter froze them? Think again.

Researchers focused on ticks and the debilitating diseases they spread say the heavy snow that blanketed the Northeast this winter was like a cozy quilt for baby blacklegged ticks that are now questing for blood as the weather warms up. And a researcher at New York’s Binghamton University said Lyme disease-infected ticks aren’t just in forests and fields.

“We’re finding plenty of infected ticks in built environments, places like city parks, playgrounds, work campuses, college campuses,” said Ralph Garruto, head of the school’s tick-borne disease program. “What makes the problem worse is that people don’t perceive of these environments as risky. If they were planning a camping trip, they’d think about how to prevent ticks. But they don’t have the same consciousness when they’re in town.”

Blacklegged ticks, also called deer ticks, are susceptible to cold, and February was the coldest month on record for many Northeast and Midwest locales. But it was also an unusually snowy winter — the snowiest ever for Boston, which had 108.6 inches. That snow may have protected ticks from freezing.