Tick Ecology in NJ Pine Barrens?

Discussion in 'Nature and the Environment' started by NJChileHead, Feb 14, 2017.

  1. NJChileHead

    NJChileHead Explorer

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    Over the course of the years I have found myself more and more stumped and fascinated (as well as revolted) by the sheer number of tick encounters that I've had in the Pine Barrens. I long assumed that the concentration of ticks was not greater in the Pines, but that they were questing differently. After some contemplation and a horrible experience this summer, I'm leaning toward there being far and away more ticks in the Pines than other areas.

    I'm wondering a few things: first, are there really more ticks now than there were before? It seems to me that when I was a kid and exploring the Pines, that I'd get numbers of dog ticks but not blacklegged. Were the blacklegged ticks here? Second and most importantly, why are there so many more ticks (or at least tick encounters) here than elsewhere in NJ, and how is their ecology different here than elsewhere (if it is)?

    Thanks so much for helping me to understand this!
     
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  2. manumuskin

    manumuskin Piney

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    I have never really studied the species of ticks.I do know that when I was a kid back around 73 or 74 My Mom picked 84 ticks off of my hise upon returning home from the Bevan WMA which right next to the house so they have been bad for awhile.
     
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  3. 46er

    46er Piney

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  4. joc

    joc Explorer

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    Hi Mark ,
    I will state this :
    - I never encountered a Tick in Northern NJ or up-state NY . I'm serious .Why I don't know , I just never did .
    - Some people have theorized that the mosquito "control" methods used 30 -50 or so years ago at least kept them in check a bit ( ?)
    - There has always been a tick issue down here . My family had a cabin years and years ago in Bayville/ Berkley TWP . I distinctly remember the ticks being an issue in Ocean Co @ least in the 60's .
    - Not sure we had the Lone Star tick back then either .....

    You know how I feel about this topic . I will say that Ocean and Monmouth for some reason seem to be especially bad for some reason I will not even dare to guess . Southern Monmouth and No & Central Ocean are brutal .
    Best ,
    Joe
    PS They are apparently most active when it is humid , as I understand it .
     
    #4 joc, Feb 15, 2017
    Last edited: Feb 15, 2017
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  5. manumuskin

    manumuskin Piney

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    I have never found a tick in WV.I have found a couple in Western PA but the last time I went to the Poconos I was in the vicinity of Big Bear Swamp and me and my wife got full of them.It was a warm fall day last October.Each of us must have found 20.Only time I ever got loaded up like that out of state.
     
  6. NJChileHead

    NJChileHead Explorer

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    Thanks everyone for the info so far!

    I'm switching gears a little bit here from a tick density question to a Lyme disease density question, but I've been doing some of my own research and I learned something interesting: small mammals are the primary host (called a reservoir host) of Lyme disease, namely the white-footed mouse. Deer, to my surprise, do not transmit Lyme back to ticks and are not considered a reservoir host. Therefore, it seems that reducing the number of deer has much less of an effect on the number of infected ticks than reducing the number of white-footed mice and other small mammals that are reservoirs of Lyme.

    Adult black-legged ticks tend to get their blood meal from larger mammals like deer, where larval and nymphal stage ticks tend to get their blood meal from small mammals, birds and snakes/lizards. So reducing the number of adult hosts (deer, etc.) does have some effect on the density of ticks, but the infection rate does not change much if you are reducing the number of deer (because they are not reservoirs). If you reduce the number of smaller mammals, you can reduce the number of infected ticks by removing the reservoir hosts and also removing those primary hosts of the larval and nymph stage ticks.

    Although snakes and hawks are predators of small mammals including the white-footed mouse, it seems that the strongest correlation of an ecological indicator is the presence of the red fox. It seems that the higher the red fox population, the lower the incidence of Lyme. But there's more, and this is very interesting to me: the increase in Lyme cases appears to correlate with increases in coyote populations, as they are a predator of the red fox. So the increase in number of coyotes may help to fill a niche, but it's not good news from a Lyme disease standpoint.

    So what I am after now is a list of the competent (small mammal) reservoir hosts in the Pines and elsewhere in the Northeast, and what factors may have caused their numbers to increase? I'm interested in hearing more from you all.
     
  7. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
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    What niche are you speaking of?

    Maybe I should clarify my question, as niche has more than one meaning. Are you saying that coyote are somehow beneficial to the pinelands ecology in some way?
     
  8. NJChileHead

    NJChileHead Explorer

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    Hi Bob,

    I meant ecological niche. I believe that coyote are overall beneficial to the health of their ecosystem, as they fill the role of a top predator and keep small to medium-sized mammal populations in check, reducing disease (such as rabies and Lyme), reducing other competition pressures among them, and reducing overpredation on the smaller mammals' prey (birds, reptile eggs, etc.).

    I was under the impression that coyotes were an important predator on mice such as white-footed, and would keep the population down (therefore reducing incidences of Lyme disease). This is why I was so surprised to read that increases in coyote and the corresponding decreases in red fox populations led to increases in Lyme disease.

    I do have to wonder if examining the relationship between these variables is not complete without including how feral cats keep rodent populations down and how increases in coyotes means decreases in feral cats?

    Looking forward to your thoughts,

    Mark
     
  9. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
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    Mark, my only thought is that coyotes were not in the pines until 2003(?) or so, and yet I did not hear of any problems caused by their absence.
     
  10. NJChileHead

    NJChileHead Explorer

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    Hi Bob, I was careful in stating that coyotes can be beneficial to the health of an ecosystem, not necessarily crucial.

    What are your thoughts on the ticks?
     
  11. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
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    They suck.

    :p
     
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  12. 46er

    46er Piney

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  13. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
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    Mark, not being an entomologist, I can only guess what's going on with ticks. My sense is that the adults are no more numerous than they were before, but I don't remember so many in the nymph stage so late in the year. In about 1995(?) I was running a fire trail in Bamber and got a load of nymphs on my ankle in April, and it was bad..there was over 100. I remember scrubbing them off with a stiff brush. So, I was always careful in the spring. But, I never used to worry about nymphs that much in the fall. But now they are very numerous at that time, even appearing more numerous than what I remember from the spring.

    The worst infestation of adults I had was when we did a trip along the Batsto River. I counted 55 ticks that I pulled off my clothes. I wish we could eradicate them from the earth. Below is a wad of nymphs(?) I picked up on a Dover Forge fire trail this October. It is the worst fire trail I have ever seen for ticks. I visit it often because it has some rare plants.
     

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  14. Sue Gremlin

    Sue Gremlin Piney

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    Tick populations (speaking in terms of absolute numbers) wax and wane over time. Ticks of some species are definitely spreading to new areas, shortly followed by the diseases they carry. Lone Star ticks are increasing their territory at sort of an alarming rate, as are black-legged ticks. I don't know about actual numbers in any given area of the territories though. I think we need more grant money on that.

    These maps are pretty interesting. They don't seem to have historic maps on this page, but I have seen them in presentations. When I first moved to SW Michigan in 2010, we didn't have black-legged ticks here. Now they are present here in unbelievable numbers. I haven't found a lone star tick yet, but I expect them in the spring.

    https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html
     
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  15. Sue Gremlin

    Sue Gremlin Piney

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    Also something to note: Black-legged ticks have a two year life cycle, so the weather pattern and other ecological factors of two years ago will have an effect on the population now.
     
  16. Sue Gremlin

    Sue Gremlin Piney

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    I thought this was an interesting article on the biodynamics of vector-borne disease. https://www.dovepress.com/the-relat...sion-risk-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-RRBS
     
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  17. johnnyb

    johnnyb Explorer

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    Certainly not a scientific statement but tho subjective still valuable I think - never saw or got a tick inJJ until one showed up on me in early '60's after bushwhacking on Elbo Lane in Mt Laurel. Had rambled the pines on foot mid-50's - Batsto -Quaker Bridge and Washington-Quaker Bridge round trips and nary a tick, with mucho bushwhacking all over elsewhere. Heard they came in with the return of deer. Later years tick bite put me in the hospital with simultaneous Babesiosis and Erlichiosis , not a nice time.
     
  18. NJChileHead

    NJChileHead Explorer

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    Thank you for all the replies so far! Great info, and now my last question: why the heck are there so many more ticks in the pine forests than in other areas of NJ with typically deciduous forests? I once believed that there are the same number of ticks in the pines but that I'm encountering them more because of their different questing behavior, but now I find it almost irrefutable that the pines are overrun with them. Can anyone venture to guess why?

    Sorry to read about people's bad experiences. The next time I get to see any of you face to face I'll tell you a Pine Barrens tick story from this year that will make your skin crawl.
     
  19. bobpbx

    bobpbx Piney
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    Are we not warming more climate-wise? Look at this month. So, if it has a bearing on it, south Jersey is warmer than north jersey on average, so we'd get an increase in ticks before the North does.

    BTW, I climbed a hill on the side of Monksville Reservoir (Passaic County) 10 years ago while fishing, and I got at least 40 ticks on me from that little jaunt.
     
  20. Boyd

    Boyd Super Moderator
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    Just treated my clothes with permethrin.... Never had to do that in February before.
     
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