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Where Did All the Ticks Come From?

The following article is reprinted with the author’s permission from the UMass Amherst Landscape, Nursery, and Urban Forestry Program website.

by Craig Hollingsworth

We are seeing a lot of ticks this spring. They didn’t just hatch: these are adults that have overwintered. Those females that survived the winter did not find hosts and are waiting along the trails for a vertebrate to happen along. Tick nymphs also overwintered. Nymphs are generally dormant in the spring and most active in mid summer, but some people are finding nymphs feeding on them even now. So the ticks have been here all along, but when people become more active outdoors, we see more tick feeding.

Large numbers of ticks are already in the landscape. Photo courtesy UMass Amherst Center for Agriculture.

Keep in mind when you are in moist areas (or handling piles of wet leaves) that this is where ticks are most likely to be present. Use DEET or other tick repellents. Shower and conduct a tick check after working or playing outside. Many tick researchers recommend permethrin-treated clothing: a number of spray products are available, generally in outdoor stores. Clothing sprayed with permethrin will kill ticks even after a number of launderings.

The UMass Extension Tick Assessment Laboratory can determine whether or not a tick carries the pathogen for Lyme disease and other pathogens. About 30% of the ticks test positive for Lyme disease. In addition about 10% carry Anaplasma, a related bacterium, and 5% carry a malaria-like pathogen called Babesia. Information on submitting a tick for diagnosis can be found at

About the Author

Craig Hollingsworth, PhD, works at the UMass Amherst Center for Agriculture. He may be reached at