Posts tagged ‘The relationship between mice and Lyme Disease’

August 18, 2014

Now is the time to think about tick tube implementation!

Deer ticks in your backyard waiting for you to walk by

Deer ticks in your backyard waiting for you to walk by.

Along with our effective and proven barrier spray for ticks, you may have heard us talk here about tick tubes.  Tick tubes are an excellent way to eliminate future generations of ticks on your property.  Along with our barrier spray, tick tubes are an effective second punch at eliminating ticks in your yard.  So, what are they and how do they work?  When is the best time during the year to use them?

Tick tubes target nymph ticks.  Ticks have 4 stages of development in their average two-year life cycle.  Ticks begin as eggs laid by female adults in late fall.  In MD, ticks are most often found in the dens of white-footed mice.  These mice provide the best conditions for them to develop.  First, the mice build protected nests; second, they are warm-blooded mammals and can provide a blood meal for both larvae ticks and nymph ticks.  Tick eggs laid in the mice’s nest in the fall will become larval ticks in early spring and need their first blood meal.  When white-footed mice aren’t available, chipmunks, shrews, voles and other rodent nests will suffice.

https://mosquitosquadmaryland.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/egg-mass-produced-by-lone-star-tick.jpg

Egg mass produced by tick.

After hatching from eggs in early spring, the larvae take their blood meal from the closest host they can find, the white-footed mouse whose home they live in.  As they grow into nymph ticks, small rodents serve nicely as the tick’s second blood meal.  Nymph ticks still aren’t very big so don’t need an animal with a big blood supply as they will need later when they become adults.  Because mice and ticks spend so much time together when ticks are in 2 of the 4 stages of their life cycle, the mice get bitten many times as hosts to both larvae and nymphs.  The transmission of the Lyme infection from one infected nymph tick who previously took a blood meal from an infected mouse allows the infection to be transmitted to many ticks that later bite the same and other previously infected mice.  The infection rate of mice with Lyme Disease is often as high as 80-90%.

Ticks are not born with Lyme Disease and larvae ticks are never infected when they first enter that stage of their life cycle.  Only after needing a blood meal at the end of the larvae stage can they become infected by infected mice.  Given the infection of white-footed mice and the fact that larvae ticks are often found in the dens of white-footed mice, that first blood meal is where they ticks are likely to be first infected.

The most prevalent source the tick acquires the bacteria is a rodent, such as a white footed mouse, or field mouse.

The most prevalent source the tick acquires the bacteria is a rodent, such as a white footed mouse, or field mouse.

As fall arrives, the nymph ticks are seeking a home for winter and a place they can get their next blood meal as they move into adulthood.  Once again, they will seek out a white-footed mouse’s nest.  In the second spring of its life, the nymph tick will take its second blood meal from the white-footed mouse whose nest it may be in.  It is in this second spring that we and our pets are most likely to get Lyme Disease from a tick.  Since nymph ticks are so tiny, we often don’t notice them on our skin, or on our dog’s skin.  Why do ticks need to bite us for blood when they have the mice?  It’s not often that ticks stay attached long enough to get a full meal from any one source.  As they grow larger, they are above ground and not in nests and begin “questing” for any available animal.  For this reason, a tick may bite several hosts (mice, other rodents, humans, etc.) before getting the amount of blood they need to continue growing into adulthood.

Tick tubes are meant to make sure ticks don’t make it to their 2nd spring.  In order to build a proper nest for winter, white-footed mice will search for nesting material.  Mosquito Squad tick tubes have cotton balls in them saturated with insecticide that will eliminate ticks.  By making their nesting material with the tick tube cotton, the mice will get the insecticide on their fur as they move around in their nest during the winter.  When spring comes again, enough insecticide is on the mouse’s fur that the ticks will be eliminated on contact, before they can get their 2nd blood meal.  No harm is done to the mouse by the insecticide, so they continue to serve as tick-destroying hosts during the warmer months of the year.

how tick tubes work

How tick tubes work

Susan Levi, Owner Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery.

Susan Levi, Owner Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery.

By placing tick tubes out at spring, summer and fall your tick protection is supported by a second line of defense, tick tubes.  Each year, as more nymph ticks are eliminated on your property, there should be fewer adults to lay eggs.  Our barrier spray eliminates ticks on contact and works for up to 3 weeks on active ticks living in your yard.  Tick tubes eliminate the ticks you won’t ever see.

If you have questions on how to protect yourself from mosquito and tick-borne diseases, please contact Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery, (301) 444-5566.

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August 7, 2014

Can those pesky house mice spread Lyme Disease?

Various types of mice.

Various types of mice.

You may have read stories before on this blog talking about the link between ticks, Lyme Disease and white-footed mice. These stories may have peaked your curiosity about other species of rodents, especially pesky house mice that like to take up residence in our homes. Since we are entering into the peak season for nymph ticks, and very soon,  into the fall when the weather will be growing cooler and house mice will be looking for places to stay warm, now is a great time to become familiar with tick/mouse activity!

White-footed mice do exceptionally well in the habitat of the Northeast US and other similar places because of the urbanization of old farmland.  Open woodlots and brushy areas make ideal living conditions for white-footed mice and ticks.

Although Lyme Disease is not as prevalent in some US states, other tick-borne diseases are.  Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other infections are often prevalent in places Lyme Disease is not.  Shrews, voles, rabbits, chipmunks and other small rodents will fill a similar role as white-footed mice in these regions when available.

Notice this white-footed mouse is covered with nymph ticks

Notice this white-footed mouse is covered with nymph ticks.

When an adult female tick needs to lay her eggs, she looks for a location that will have a temperature warm enough in winter to allow her eggs to survive.  White-footed mice build nests in burrows, stumps, brush piles, buildings and in the abandoned nests of other small animals and birds.  These nests provide concealment for them from predators and warmth in the winter.

When an adult female tick lays her eggs in the nest of a white-footed mouse, she is providing both protection and a good start for the next generation.  When hatched into larvae in the spring and early summer, these ticks will take their first blood meal from the closest available small animal, which is usually the white-footed mouse.  Tick larvae are not infected with Lyme Disease when born.  Their first chance to be infected is when they take their first blood meal from the mice.  As these larvae ticks grow and need a second blood meal to grow into their third life stage as nymph ticks, the mice will often serve as hosts to that meal also.

Studies show that 80-90% of all white-footed mice are infected with the Lyme bacteria.  When you consider the number of larvae and nymph ticks that take their blood meal from white-footed mice, you can easily see why the infection rate is so high.  Ticks will often have to bite more than one host for a blood meal in order to get an adequate supply of blood, so they can grow into their next life cycle stage.  If one larvae or nymph tick is infected with Lyme Disease, the infection will usually be transmitted to any of the mice they bite.  Ticks that bite an infected mouse have a very high likelihood of becoming infected themselves and further transmitting the disease.  As ticks become larger, they need larger mammals and birds for their blood meal.  This is how Lyme Disease is transmitted to raccoons, foxes, opossums, birds, and other small mammals.  Deer serve as hosts for adult ticks because of their size allows them to have enough blood to provide many adult ticks their blood meal to lay eggs.

House Mice in a loaf of bread

House Mice nesting in a loaf of bread.

For mice that do not frequent open woodlots and brushy areas, there is little chance of them being exposed to ticks.  No contact with ticks means no Lyme infection.  This is the primary reason that Lyme Disease is rare or non-existent in mice that seek shelter and warmth in your home.  As these or any mice spend time in your yard and in tick habitat, it’s possible they can become infected, if bitten by an infected tick.  House mice have not been studied to determine if they contract Lyme Disease in certain situations; but there is no reason to think they would be immune.  It’s likely they are not a vector for Lyme Disease because they simply don’t spend as much time in tick habitat as other rodents.

As you can see, the circumstances that lead to Lyme Disease are diverse and complex.  With so many vectors, hosts and reservoirs responsible for the disease, researchers are a long way off from knowing how the disease continues to spread. Rather than wait for science to provide a solution, there are effective solutions now such as barrier sprays and tick tube implementation for your yard. Contact Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery now to discuss our tick barrier spray and tick tube program that will protect your yard all season long.

Susan Levi, Owner Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery.

Susan Levi, Owner Mosquito Squad of West Montgomery.

Learn more about protecting yourself and your family from the risks of tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme Disease in your backyard! Sign up today • (301) 444-5566 • email:westmontco@mosquitosquad.com