How Connecticut’s hot summers are leading to more ticks in the state

The heat wave in Connecticut is leading to more than just scorching conditions. New studies have reported that the high temperatures are creating an environment ripe for more disease-carrying ticks — and ticks that are more aggressive toward humans.

The EPA reported that “studies provide evidence that climate change has contributed to the expanded range of ticks, increasing the potential risk of Lyme disease.” Ticks that carry Lyme disease, known as deer ticks, thrive in hot and humid conditions like those found in Northeast summers. 

Summers in Connecticut have been warming year after year, and Inside Climate News reports the Northeast is becoming the fastest warming region in the U.S. Under these conditions, Science.org says ticks are living longer and biting more people. A Mic.com 2020 report stated that ticks are twice as likely to latch on to humans when temperatures get warmer. 

The deer tick is linked to a new tick-borne disease called the Powassan virus. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The deer tick is linked to a new tick-borne disease called the Powassan virus. Photo courtesy of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Contributed Photo / USDA/Contributed Photo

Not only are ticks thriving in areas they could not previously live, but areas that already had large ticks populations, like Connecticut, are seeing an increase in the bugs, as reported by the Hartford Courant. Hot and humid temperatures are leading to more and different kinds of ticks, like the American dog tick, the black-legged tick and the newest addition, the lone star tick. This means that there is now a wider variety of tick-related illnesses circulating in Connecticut. In fact, earlier this year, Connecticut reported two cases of the rare Powassan virus, a potentially fatal disease that comes from the deer tick. One woman in Connecticut died from the virus two weeks after she was bit by an infected tick; she was the second death from Powassan virus in the U.S.

And it’s not just the summers. Connecticut’s warmer, shorter winters are giving ticks more opportunities to survive rather than die off from cold weather as they did years ago. A report from the National Library of Medicine said more people are being exposed to ticks because of this. Shorter winters allow people to get outside sooner for spring and summer activities, giving more time for exposure to tick habitats and leading to more tick-related illnesses.

The CDC says the majority of Lyme disease cases already occur in Connecticut, and it is urging residents to be aware of coming in contact with infected ticks. Dr. Goudarz Molaei of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station previously told Hearst that the Fairfield and New Haven areas specifically are seeing higher numbers of tick populations.

Molaei told Hearst when doing tick surveillance in some of these towns “it takes maybe less than an hour for us to collect over 800 ticks.” 

With tick season now being virtually year-round, federal and local health agencies are telling Connecticut residents to protect themselves from tick bites and tick exposure. The Connecticut Department of Public Health recommends people take the follow steps to prevent tick-borne diseases:

  • Avoid tall grass and overgrown, brushy areas.

  • When hiking in wooded areas, stay in the middle of trails.

  • Consider using insect repellent, according to the manufacturer's instructions.

  • Tuck pant legs into socks, wear long-sleeved shirts, and closed shoes.

  • Wear light-colored clothing to see the ticks easier for removal.

  • When returning indoors, shower using a washcloth or puff to remove any unattached ticks.

  • Examine yourself, children, and pets for ticks when returning indoors.

  • Talk to your veterinarian to find out how to protect your pets from tick bites.