Warmest February weather on record triggers tick breeding season three months early

This February is set to be the warmest since records began for many parts of Britain. The mild sunny weather is not only bringing the pleasure of freakishly early spring flowers, but also starting what could feasibly be the earliest British tick breeding season in over 100 years.

The tick breeding season in Britain usually begins in May, but yesterday Caudwell LymeCo was contacted by a mother in Scotland who had just pulled two nymph ticks off her little boy when she collected him from pre-school.

We are therefore launching a warning to begin tick protective precautions immediately.

This nymph tick was found feeding on a pre-school child in Scotland this week. He was carefully checked by two different adults before this tiny nymph, shown here beside a 5 pence coin, was found and removed with difficulty.

Met Office Chief Meteorologist, Steve Willington, commented this week: “By the weekend we could see temperatures almost 10 degrees higher than what we might normally expect at this time of year, so there will certainly be a spring-like feel in the air across the country. 

Cited on the Met Office website, he also said: “Settled conditions will spread to all parts of the country by the weekend, bringing plenty of sunshine and unseasonably mild temperatures that could well compete with current February temperature records of 19.7 °C .”

With the Met Office expecting record high temperatures for February, we expect more breeding ticks, like the one found in Scotland, three months earlier than the usual tick breeding season which in most years starts in May. The risk of getting a tick bite increases when they breed, because it is the newly hatched nymphs that bite humans more often than adult ticks.

So, how should you prepare for the potential risk of hungry tick nymphs with temperatures more often felt in May?

Two tick nymphs removed from a child in Scotland this week
  • Firstly, deter ticks from biting you by spraying skin thoroughly with an insect repellent that contains Deet. You can also spray clothing with permethrin to give additional protection if you are gardening or camping.
  • Give your children a blanket to sit on rather than letting them sit on grass.
  • Check yourself and children thoroughly for ticks after going outside and;
  • throw your clothes – still dry – into the tumble dryer for 20 minutes to kill any ticks which may be on them.

You can follow our step-by-step advice on How to Protect your Family from Lyme disease for more advice on tick bite prevention.

If you do find a tick attached, be careful to remove it correctly as described in How to Remove a Tick Safely.

Please enjoy the beautiful weather outside and make the absolute most of it in case we get a classic English summer! But keep yourselves and your families safe from tick bites and Lyme disease.

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