Lone star ticks are on the hunt in New York

Some states have reported a tenfold increase in ticks. But the blacklegged tick and Lyme disease aren't the only things to focus on. Other species of ticks that don't spread Lyme disease can still transmit other serious infections. And these ticks are booming in New York with no end in sight.

As the world focuses on COVID-19, some top tick educators have a stark reminder that insidious predators an eighth of an inch in size lie in wait. 

A migration of lone star ticks is flooding the state, according to Joellen Lampman of the New York State Integrated Pest Management program. They've been here and are now expanding their range up the Hudson Valley, she said.

Brian Leydet is a vector-borne disease biologist with SUNY. He said the lone star tick is historically associated with the southern United States and the female has a dot on its back, hence the name. The lone star tick isn't a Lyme carrier but can transmit other harmful bacteria and viruses, which can cause serious complications such as ehrlichiosis, Bourbon virus disease, and heartland virus disease. And its saliva has a protein that can even spark a red meat allergy, Leydet said.

The experts say that instead of laying 2,000 eggs at one time, a lone star tick will hatch 8,000—so many that the floor looks like it is moving. and unlike the blacklegged tick, the lone star is a hunter.

"It's pretty terrifying when you've got a bunch of these ticks running at you," Leydet said.

Scientists believe the population boom is likely tied to global warming and the massive deer boom. Lampman said deer are the ticks' favorite host. So as deer migrate, so do the ticks.

That is why a lot of the research in New York right now centers around the deer population. The thinking is that if you can mitigate the deer population you may be able to control the tick population. But because of COVID-19, many of the labs are shut down.

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