Have you been wondering (or hoping) that these brutal polar vortex weather episodes sweeping the eastern half of the nation are freezing off blacklegged (deer) ticks? It’d be nice, right?

Dr. Thomas Mather, director of the University of Rhode Island’s Center for Vector-Borne Disease and TickEncounter Resource Center and his team recently conducted a series of tests to determine if the dreaded ticks are dead or alive (re-cap video of the test results can be seen at http://youtu.be/c0PH4uoqytM)

“Recently, when we put some adult female deer ticks in our own polar vortex (aka, the freezer), ticks were killed in 24 hours. The temperature was -2°F. It’s certainly been colder than that in Green Bay, Pittsburgh and Burlington. Being attacked by fewer ticks come springtime would be some kind of payback for the extreme heating bills of this winter,” said Mather.

But hold on! Outside in nature, the ticks are on the ground, under leaves, snow and other debris. Over evolutionary time, ticks probably have seen their share of frigid polar vortex conditions… and somehow survived them. So, when Dr. Mather’s team took more ticks outside to test what would happen, (spoiler alert, watch the video and get prepared to be shocked) the result was not pleasant. In science terms, what we’ve been talking about thus far is a crude assessment of cold hardiness. In a nutshell – these ticks are cold hardy.

So, bottom line, frigid temperatures are not going to reduce the risk of tick encounters much. So start making plans now to keep yourselves, pets and family tick safe this spring and summer.


Mather and his team have received wide recognition and attracted more than $13 million in funding from many organizations including the National Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Institutes of Health. The Tick Encounter Resource Center promotes tick-bite protection and tick-borne disease prevention by engaging, educating, and empowering people to take action. More information can be found via http://wwwtickencounter.org


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