Arctic blast could kill lots of ticks in Nova Scotia

Arctic blast could kill lots of ticks in Nova Scotia


The bone-chilling weekend ahead could kill many ticks that carry Lyme disease.

Now, biologist Vett Lloyd is quick to warn that you shouldn’t get ahead of yourself – it won’t kill ALL the ticks.

Just a lot of them.

And it depends on the arctic air mass that moves in on Saturday to find Nova Scotia with very little or no snow cover.

“Any ticks that didn’t get the memo (about the weather) and are looking will be killed,” Lloyd said.

“Questing” is a charming way at Mount Allison University’s Tick Lab, where Lloyd works, to say “out to suck a mammal’s blood.”

Most adult black-legged ticks (deer ticks) are not looking now – they are hidden in the leaf litter and waiting to start ‘looking’ in the spring.

But without snow to provide insulation, they are susceptible to freezing to death in the high minus teens. Smaller juveniles are a little hardier and can survive into the low minus twenties.

So how cold is it supposed to get this weekend?

“Very cold,” says Allison Aalders, Saltwire’s weather specialist.

“It looks like minus 22 to minus 28 across the province, but some areas could reach minus 30 or colder in higher elevations such as the Cape Breton Highlands or Wentworth Valley.”

The depth of the cold and complexity of neighboring systems will create sustained wind speeds of 30 to 60 kilometers per hour, with faster gusts. While wind chill is less of a problem for ticks, it is for people outside, and can see the temperatures feel like they’re in the minus 40s.

We can blame it on a deep low of icy arctic air over Hudson Bay that will be pushed down over Atlantic Canada by a high pressure system to the west.

According to Aalders, the mercury will start to drop on Friday evening and drop out on Saturday. By Sunday, the system will move out and much of the province can expect to be near or above zero early next week.

Asked if she would like to see the cold kill a lot of ticks, Lloyd said “Yes” and then he didn’t fill the ensuing silence with further comment.

Observing that some might find it odd that one would want to see the subject of decades of research downplayed, she said, “Oh, I’m not afraid that will happen.”

That’s because no matter what weather we get this weekend, there will still be plenty of Lyme disease-carrying blacklegged ticks.

Their eggs are buried in the shallow soil and can survive temperatures down to minus 30.

“And even an inch down into the ground the temperature becomes quite moderate,” Lloyd said.

So, at best, a deep chill might mean a few fewer ticks in the spring.

“They are here to stay and so are we, so all we can do is learn to live with them,” Lloyd said.

That means tick checks whenever you come inside (even in the winter) and year-round flea/tick treatment for pets.

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