"Experts seeing rise in tick population, threat of disease" – Macon.com

Did you know that mice are essential to the life cycle of a tick?  Check out this interesting article that was posted in June 2010 on Macon.com

 Experts seeing rise in tick population, threat of disease

By LIZ FABIAN – lfabian@macon.com

Perched atop blades of grass or taller vegetation, ticks wait for a feast to walk by.

Standing on their back legs with their front legs outstretched, the blood-thirsty critters are ready to latch on at the first hint of carbon dioxide or heat alert from their infrared sensors.

Mercer associate professor of biology Alan Smith actively seeks out ticks for research.

In recent weeks, he has been teaching seventh-grade students at the Amerson Water Works Park on the Ocmulgee River about all forms of wildlife.

“I picked up a lot of ticks there without even trying,” Smith said. “I think the populations are pretty abundant.”

Last year, Smith struggled to pick up samples for his research but recently collected 100 of them from around Lake Tobesofkee.

He blames the wet spring and an abundance of deer and mice, he said.

“Data shows when the deer and especially the mouse populations are up, then the tick populations goes up,” Smith said.

Mice are crucial to the tick’s two-year life cycle. After hatching from eggs, the tiny arachnids must feast on a blood meal to carry them through each stage of development from larva to nymph and adult. Most ticks cut their baby teeth on mice, which are close to the ground.

The bloated little bulb you might discover dining away on your DNA is likely an adult enjoying her last meal. Left alone to gorge, she will eventually fall off in about a week. As the female tick nears the end of her life, she may lay 3,000 eggs that hatch on the ground.

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