The Ancient, Mighty Tick

Alex Wierbinski's picture

By Alex Wierbinski - Posted on 16 February 2019

 Updated Feburary 25, 2019:

Tick Defense Strategies
The Tick Stick, and Good Trail & Camp Practices



The Ancient, Mighty Tick

Distribution of Western Black Legged Tick...Today
Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans, Western Blacklegged Tick, credit to RRLash, CDC.
Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans
, Western Blacklegged Tick, Credit to RRLash of the CDC.

Tick Alert-Tick Alert!

As Spring and Summer Approach, We Think about How Wild the Ticks are on the Coast, and their Potential for Climbing Mountains with the returning Deer during Spring & Summer

UC research shows ticks are even tougher and nastier than you thought,
University of Cincinnati, September 25, 2017. 


Full Time Vectors
"They can transmit the disease at any stage of their life if they get infected. It's much more common to be bitten by an adult around here. But they can pick up the disease as a larvae or a nymph as well."

Tough Old Bastards
"...they live for up to six years."

Ancient Beasts
"Fossil evidence suggests ticks fed on dinosaurs and other Cretaceous creatures 90 million years ago."

Ancient Tick in Ancient Amber with Ancient Lyme Bacteria: Bet the Dinos Hated Them.
Photo by George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University.
Photo by George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University via Wiki. He did the recent research on ancient mosquitoes we just announced.

New Surprises
"Ticks carry countless diseases. New ones are identified all the time."

"The bite of some lone star ticks in Kentucky and Indiana has been linked to an immune response that causes some people to become allergic to red meat, a disorder called alpha-gal."

Bacterial Bite
"Unlike mosquitoes, which transmit viruses such as West Nile or Zika in their bite, ticks transmit bacteria when they bite us."

"With tick-borne diseases, we don't have immunity to bacterial infections. We can get infected over and over again. Our body isn't capable of fending it off."

Lyme is #1
"Lyme disease affects far more people in the United States than any pathogen carried by mosquitoes in the United States."

Big Numbers: 10X Reported Cases
30,000 vs 329,000
"About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease was observed in patients across 40 states in 2015. But this does not capture all diagnosed cases - or the many suspected cases that go undiagnosed each year, the agency said. A 2015 study by the CDC used medical-insurance claims between 2005 and 2010 to estimate that 329,000 people contract Lyme each year in the United States."

Tough Little Bastards
"A UC study published in 2016 by the journal Ticks and Tick-Borne Diseases suggests that ticks have little problem surviving a typical Ohio winter."

Cold Tolerant
"...examined the cold tolerance of the American dog tick by exposing them to temperatures as cold as -9 degrees Fahrenheit. They determined that no ticks survived more than two hours at that temperature. But ticks could withstand temperatures just above 0 degrees and most survived temperatures in the 20s for at least two weeks."

Tolerate Heat & Drought
"...found that ticks could withstand long periods of drought, enduring dehydration even when they go without food for as long as 18 weeks."

Expanding Ranges?
"Some tick species appear to be expanding their range, which means the diseases they carry could be an emerging concern."
Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans, American Dog Tick, RRLash of the CDC.
Geographic distribution of ticks that bite humans
, American Dog Tick, RRLash of the CDC.Good times to be a Tick

More Warming Fun Coming
"We expect to see more reported cases of Lyme disease."

"Warmer temperatures and milder winters are allowing them to survive. We're seeing a change in population distribution and increases in numbers as well."


Our Main Point, as High Sierra Backpackers

In, "Range," Barely
Though the Sierra Crest and its high flanks are, "nominally," above the common range of ticks, we can see from the charts above that we have tick range, "coverage," though thin coverage, reaching across both the East and West Flanks of the Sierra by our two endemic tick species.

They will likely penetrate deeper in coming years as rising temps continue bringing more rains higher and higher up.

Nonetheless, tick encounters in the Sierra are rare, typically products of stragglers coming off their hosts, being brushed-off or otherwise dislodged during the peripatetic grazings of the deer and cattle on which the ticks are, "riding," for a nice vacation up into the Sierra, as their herbavoir hosts move into the mountains to take advantage of Spring's rich harvest of greenery.

We'll likely be just fine if we don't camp where the cattle or deer bed down, or have recently bedded down. Still, why is this important to a dedicated High Sierra backpacker? Because we can't spend all our time in the Sierra.

Winter Interludes
We can be facing up to a week of waiting as we watch a powerful, multi-day blizard blowing across the Sierra Crest during Winter, before it blows out, and its snows fall off the steep slopes, and the rest of it compacts down into a reasonable travel surface. What to do when the Sierra is going nuts? I go to the Coastal Range.

There, that same storm is crossing onto land packing the punch it built up crossing thousands of miles of open sea, loading up on the power of fresh, cold North Pacific moisture, the same moisture that keeps the temperate rainforests and grasslands along the coast, and their multitudes of Ticks, humming along. That's where we're going to go, when the big storms shut us out of the mountains, we go to the coastal mountains by the sea.

In that case, we need to add excellent tick-avoidance knowledge and practices into our toolkit of trail, gear, and camp practices. And rain. We gotta have rainstorm camping down pat for mid-Winter trips up and down the North Coast of California.

This will keep us fit for the upcoming Winter Adventures, which will get us ready for long distance Summertime backpacking. It all fits together so nicely!

Lost Coast and the Kings Range up to Petrolia is one of my favorite Winter retreats, when the Sierra are closed by active Wintertime storms.

And, there are lots of ticks, in them there hills.


Tick Defense Strategies

The Tick Stick, and Good Trail & Camp Practices



Lost Coast Backpacker

Nothing is Waterproof

Horse Story-Lost Coast Backpacker




Tick Safety & Defenses

CDC on Ticks

CDC Tick Geographic Distribution Maps



FYI: Tick Infections Rising

Public Health & Mountain Safety WARNING & Information Update about Ticks



Recent Tick Research

Tick News: Oh-Oh, New, Nasty-Assed Tick in Eastern US


2018 Tick Alert, FYI: Tick Infections Rising

Lyme disease predicted to rise 20% in US as climate warms


Nov 2018: Two on Ticks, Disease Numbers & Lives of Hungry Ticks

Ticks in Balance: Break the Balance and Suffer more Ticks


Health & Fitness News, Enduring Lyme Disease: Why we Avoid Ticks

HEALTH & FITNESS, Fantastic New Tick Borne Disease Test



Other Threats

Bubonic Plague in the High Sierra


West Nile Disease
DEET Resistance Aids Transmission of West Nile Virus

West Nile Reporting


The Ancient & Mighty Mosquito, too...

Some Deep Mosquito & Malaria History: In Gondwana Land?





Recent mosquito & tick news & research links




All Skeeter & Tick News

High Sierra Tick Information




All September 2017 General News



Originally Published
2017-09-25 17:32:46

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