Why Lyme Disease Ticks Thrive in the North

Take Higher Caution in Cool, High-Humidity Climates




Nataliia K/Shutterstock.com

Researchers from the University of Rhode Island, in Kingston, have studied the rapid increase in Lyme disease in the northern U.S. Only 11 cases of the disease, which annually impacts about 300,000 Americans, were reported in 2015 in Alabama, a state of approximately 5 million residents. Meanwhile, there were 491 confirmed cases in Vermont, with a population of less than 700,000.

The researchers studied the life cycle, metabolism and behavior of black-legged ticks, collecting larvae from several eastern areas. They discovered that ticks live longer in cooler temperatures with higher levels of humidity, making northeastern climates ideal, because longer lives mean increased chance of contact. Southern ticks stay hidden underfoot in layers of leaves to stay cool and damp, making them less likely to find a human host than their northern counterparts, which reside on leaves and trees.

“There has been a lot of research aimed at finding out what makes black-legged ticks more efficient hosts for Lyme disease in the north than in the south,” explains Roger LeBrun, an entomology professor at the University of Rhode Island and co-author of the study. “People have looked at everything from the effects of temperature on tick life cycles to the types of animals the ticks feed on. Probably all of these factors play roles, but our results suggest that evolutionary pressure to conserve moisture by staying under the leaf litter surface is a critical factor.”


This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Inactive Lifestyle Accelerates Aging

Women ages 64 to 95 with sedentary lifestyles had significantly shorter leukocyte telomere length, which is a marker for faster genetic aging.

Healthy Eating Can Improve Bone Density in Women

In a six-year Ohio State study, women that ate the most low-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, had less bone loss in their hips.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

See More »This Month

Make it Personal and Support a Local Endangered Species

To celebrate a 20-year legacy as the region’s leading conservation alliance, Chicago Wilderness is conducting One Home: A Campaign to Support our Species (ChicagoWilderness.org/20years), a fundraising effort through November 29 to support the health and habitat of 12 priority animal species in the region through CrowdRise.

Creating Healthy Relationships

We can return to pleasure and revive a relationship by identifying the hidden “love knots” and “emotional allergies” that bind us and our loved one together in pain.

Autumn in the Vegetable Garden

It's tempting to leave our summer tomatoes, cucumbers and squash in the ground, giving up on our vegetable garden after Labor Day, but fall is the prime time to work on our vegetable garden, getting the most out of the growing season by adding cool season crops.

Greenheart Transforms Showcases Chicago Area Change Makers

Greenheart Transforms presents the second annual Envisioning a World Transformed, at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

The Springs of Vernon Hills

The Springs of Vernon Hills is a 70-bed, stand-alone memory care facility located in Vernon Hills that specializes in residents with Alzheimer’s and other dementia. Tina Schachter is the executive director and explains that they offer care to residents with a variety of cognitive conditions.

Discover the Big Yes! of Spring at Evanston Workshop and Walk

Receive nature’s help for your new beginnings and your new dreams in the Spring Into Yes! Wonder Walk and Workshop, from 1:30 to 5 p.m., May 16