A common question we run into in pest control is, “Do all the pests die off in the winter?” Along those lines, this post answers the question, “Will ticks die in cold weather?”
Winter and cold can slow pests down but they aren’t all dead
During the colder months, many pests will go through a state of diapause. This is a period of suspended development. Some ticks do this but many remain active, and just hide or latch onto a host for the winter months.
As temperatures drop and it transitions from fall to winter, some species of ticks can actually become more aggressive than any other time of the year.
For many ticks, they need to feed before they can go into their next stage of development. This means they might be in that stage of diapause or they will be unable to reproduce until they get that next meal.
For this reason, many ticks are more active as temperatures begin to drop. Just because it’s getting colder doesn’t mean that all the ticks die off. In some cases, we might even provide them with shelter options to survive during the winter.
Different ways that ticks survive the winter and find shelter
It may be too late in the year to do anything at this point, but with proper yard upkeep, you can eliminate a lot of shelter spots ticks can take advantage of in the winter. Cleaning up leaf piles, for example, is one way to eliminate areas ticks can keep safe.
Leaf piles can create a layer of insulation from the cold. With this extra layer of protection, temperatures can stay in safe ranges for ticks to remain active. With the addition of snow fall, there is another level of insulation on top of the leaves.
Excess tall grass in your yard can create a similar effect. With the tall grass as a barrier between the ground and the snow, it can create a safe zone for ticks. Many ticks can remain active still with temperatures in the low to mid 30’s. There can be many days throughout the winter where it is below freezing at surface temperatures. However, when you get down to the insulated areas under the snow it can be much more tolerable. This is evident to anyone who spent time as a child (or adventuring adult) digging a snow cave or building an elaborate snow fort or igloo.
As the winter sun comes out, it can even get to higher temps near the surface of the snow and some ticks may decide to come out to attempt to feed. Many ticks will also find a host during the winter months and hang onto them to survive. In some cases, hosts such as small rodents may be seeking shelter in the same leaf piles and tall grass areas as ticks. Once the tick latches on to the rodent, it gets a free ride to wherever the next place of refuge is. In some cases, this may end up in a shed, garage, or even home.
This could mean your pets are in danger of picking up a tick even with snow out. While tick issues are certainly less common during the winter months, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye out for them on your pets especially if you are in places where ticks frequent outside of the winter months.
Keeping a look out and proper yard maintenance are two simple steps you can use both before and during winter to keep you and your pets safe from ticks.
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