Michigan's tick season will be worse this year - here's what to know

FILE - A tick sits on the tip of a blade of grass in a file image taken Sept. 7, 2020. (Photo by Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Michigan and the Midwest could be in for a busy bug season, and that doesn't just include broad swaths of cicadas.

Ticks, the eight-legged arachnids known for carrying Lyme disease, and other public health concerns are expected to be worse than usual this summer.

Warm summer temperatures and wet conditions are both preferable conditions that ticks thrive in - and Michigan could be looking at above averages for both.

According to Pest.org's annual tick forecast, the Midwest is up against an above-average threat level for ticks. 

While the insect best thrives in the northeast, states in the Great Lakes see the second-most cases of Lyme disease of any region in the country. The health consequences of the infection and the general nuisance of ticks in the wild means people exploring the outdoors will want to be extra vigilant this summer.

What is a tick?

Ticks are a common species in the U.S. These small blood-sucking bugs are easily identifiable by their round center and eight sprouting legs. 

In fact, the number of legs they have means they're more closely related to spiders than they are to their six-legged cousins.

They can range in size from the size of a pin's head to that of a pencil eraser. They're most commonly colored red, brown, and black.

However, their size does grow to the size of a marble as they fill up with blood. By then, they're shaded more greenish-blue than brown.

What diseases do ticks carry?

The bite of a tick is relatively harmless. But it's the diseases their bites transmit that can become real problems for any victims. Most often associated with Lyme disease, only one species of tick actually carries it: Deer ticks. They are native to both the eastern and western ends of the U.S. Not entirely understood, the disease affects the central nervous system and can persist for decades amid flareups.

But that's not all they carry. Species like the Rocky Mountain wood tick, the American dog tick, and the brown dog tick carry a bacterial disease called Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. This can affect your organs if left untreated.

Then there's babesiosis, which is far rarer than Lyme disease but carries just as severe symptoms. Left untreated, it can destroy red blood cells and cause anemia. 

There's also Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, and Anaplasmosis, all three of which have been reported in the Midwest. 

Where you might find a tick

You probably live near a suitable environment for a tick to thrive. They take refuge outdoors but hide in grass, trees, and underbrush.

You also probably have ventured into areas where they're more common. Hikes in the woods, dog walks along creeks, and other outdoor activities in isolated parts of the state are all suitable locations to pick up a tick.

They also like to latch onto pets and have been known to migrate to humans afterward.

What's worse about tick season in 2021?

Tick season is already a long one in the Midwest, extending from late April to early October. Already home to the most diverse range of tick species, they can thrive when the conditions are right. 

It should be considered good news then that the winter and spring temperatures were relatively normal this time around. But as the recent humidity suggests, the summer heat is expected to stick around into the fall longer than normal. Wetter conditions further south have also made conditions more conducive for populations to explode. 

According to the 2021 forecast, bouts of extreme flooding may be creating even more environments for these guys to breed and travel.

And then there are less predictable trends, like more people spending time outside due to the pandemic. This will raise the chance that a tick can find a suitable host.

How to prevent tick bites

Ticks are great at catching rides onto your clothes and skin. When you rub against brush and other vegetation in the woods, there may be one waiting to hitch a ride.

Experts recommend wearing long clothes on your arms and legs. Bright colors can help you better identify if they did get on you.

It's also worth doing a quick check when you get home to see if you picked up any travelers. It can take several hours before a virus transmits from a tick to its host, which means even if one did latch on, you can still escape uninfected.

Removing a tick

If you're unlucky enough to have gotten bit, the best way to remove a tick is with tweezers. You'll want to get as close as you can to the skin and lift up when you do.

Be careful not to twist or swivel the tweezers once you do grab on as this can cause body parts to break off and get stuck on your skin.