Ticks have been making their presence known this time of year, and while people have been calling in a higher number of tick complaints, experts are not surprised by the increase. There have been numerous record-breaking warm days for this time of year, and it is these unusually warm temperatures that are bringing out the ticks. The warmer temperatures have triggered increased activity in a number of animals and insects that would normally still be quiet if the temperatures were at their normal, cooler levels. The heat is waking up all these insects and animals, ticks in particular, early from their usual winter sleep or hibernation. We humans wouldn’t usually see them out and about this early in the year.

The temperature is actually only one part of the equation, however. Our own behavior also contributes to their activity. Because of the warmer than usual temperatures, there have been more people spending time outside with their pets in tow. Both the warm temperatures and the increased human activity raises the likelihood of being exposed to ticks. Anecdotal reports claiming the tick presence is the worst it’s ever been are numerous, with one resident recalling having to remove over 30 ticks from each of their dogs after spending a day outside and another person saying that he woke up in the morning to find a tick on his neck while he was supposed to be safe inside his home from such attacks. Experts say this year’s tick season is going to be a bad one.

There are three types of ticks you may encounter in Massachusetts. The first is the black-legged tick, also known as a deer tick, which is black and roughly the size of a sesame seed. These pests can transmit numerous diseases to humans, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus, and Borrelia miyamotoi. The type of ticks responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever and types of tularemia are dog ticks. Dog ticks tend to be around the size of watermelon seeds. Lone star ticks are the least dangerous to human health, but are capable of spreading diseases such as southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia, and ehrlichiosis. Their saliva can cause irritation, causing redness and discomfort at the site of the bite. Their saliva has also been shown to trigger an allergy to red meat in certain people. Make sure to check you and your pets for ticks any time you are returning inside your home from outside, and you will save yourself a lot of possible grief.

Have you seen more ticks around than normal this year?