Can You Get Lyme Disease From Acorns?

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Perhaps you have heard that an increase in acorns can cause an increase in incidences of Lyme disease, and you may be wondering how this can be true. How can an acorn cause Lyme disease? Well, acorns don't actually cause Lyme disease, but there is evidence backing up the idea that their abundance can be linked to an increase in this deadly disease.

Last fall, did you notice more acorns underfoot than usual? Well, you weren't imagining things. According to Michael Fargione, who is the manager of field research and outdoor programs at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, 2015 was a "mast year" for acorns in the Hudson Valley area. This means that the acorn crop was far more abundant than most years.

If you are a hiker, you may have experienced some discomfort, as walking on so many acorns was like, as Fargione said, "walking on marbles." But for wildlife living in this area, this means an abundance of food. This will help the animals fatten up, stock enough food for winter, or have plenty of energy if they migrate south for the cold season.

And this means a probable increase in the incidence of Lyme disease in 2017. Here's why:

Animals that feed on seeds fare better with an increased supply of food; therefore, the summer following a mast year brings an increase in seed-eater populations as well as predators that feed on them… including ticks. To demonstrate this, consider that each summer after a big acorn crop, the population of white-footed mice explodes. This means that there is an increased chance of ticks getting their first blood meal from a mouse.

Fargione goes on to say, “Mice are very efficient at infecting ticks with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, so with the ticks that are out there having an easier time finding a mouse to feed on, there will be more ticks getting the Lyme spirochete. Then the following year – two years after the mast year – those ticks will produce their own offspring. And more ticks means the probability of a human encountering a tick is going to be higher.”

Fargione adds that the theory is still speculative, but persuasive research backing up an increase in Lyme two years after a mast year was developed by Cary Institute disease ecologist Rick Ostfeld, who specializes in the study of the West Nile virus and Lyme disease.

So what does this mean to you?

Although there is no reason to panic, it would be a good idea to start thinking about pest prevention for your yard, since ticks are dangerous to both people and pets. And if you find a tick in your home or yard, don't delay in getting professional help. Don't take chances with Lyme disease; Thomas Pest Services is here to help.

Tags: lyme disease  |  tick control


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