LEWISTON — The prolonged, wet spring has created bumper crops of black flies, mosquitoes and ticks. Lots of ticks.

What’s made this spring so much worse than other years is the extended duration of cool, wet weather. Typically, things are dry by now.

Entomologist Griffin Dill, who operates “The Tick Lab” at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said this spring has been abnormal.

“The winter lasted longer than usual. That pushes back the timeline for insects like ticks,” he said.

With a delayed start to the pest season, multiple species are emerging at the same time. “Wet weather creates great breeding times for mosquitoes and ticks,” Dill said.

With so much standing water everywhere, mosquitoes breed. “They don’t need much water to breed.” That’s why this year they’ve been such an issue. “Conditions are right for them for flying and biting,” Dill said. “They are taking advantage of it.”

Some parts of Maine have been inundated with black flies, others not so much. Black flies thrive with lots of flowing water, and rivers and streams are full and flowing. “They have emerged in high numbers in some areas. It gets back to the wet, rainy spring,” Dill said.

On the bright side, black flies only do well with pristine water habitats, Griffin said. So a positive side to the huge swarms of black flies “means our rivers and streams are a thriving environment.”

At his  Tick Lab at the University of Maine in Orono, where people can bring in ticks they’ve caught or pulled off dogs or themselves, Griffin began receiving samples in April.

“I’ve had 1,000 samples so far,” a higher number than expected. Of those, 500 were the bigger dog ticks not known to carry Lyme disease. The other 500 were deer ticks and 45 percent tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Dill  said.

The good news is that as the summer progresses, deer ticks don’t survive well in dry, warm conditions. “Dog ticks are more hardy. They can survive and thrive in shorter grasses.”

Even though this year is bad for pests, “we don’t recommend to stop going outside,” Dill said.

But take precautions.

Be mindful of the time of day, Dill said. Mosquitoes are more active and do more biting in the early morning and at dusk, so plan outdoor activities for the middle of the day.

Use repellants. Dill recommends buying those that have the active ingredient DEET with a concentration of 20 to 40 percent, and picaridin, a synthetic compound that repels insects, ticks and chiggers.

Eliminate standing water in your yard.

Do tick checks after being outside.


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