TRAVERSE CITY – Blood borne parasites are reportedly waiting for their prey, hidden in vast forests throughout the region – but this has nothing to do with vampires or zombies.
This marks another season, and the inhabitants of the area have noticed.
The recent mild weather has prompted local residents in droves outside the home to look for recreational opportunities in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic around the world.
The residence order of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s home allows residents to leave their homes for outdoor activities such as hiking, running, biking, and other activities while continuing to distance social distance from others outside their household – staying at least six feet away from each other .
People do that – and find fleas when they go outside.
Social media posts over the past few weeks have warned that a common, sometimes small, arachnid parasite has been found by locals both in their clothing, their pets or even their own skin.
Among those who have found several small blood-sucking pests are Rich Kerr of Cedar. He found three in his pet so far this spring.
“One on our beagle and two in our black lab,” he said.
The dogs take fleas while running through the forest near their home. Lice and tick repellent doses have been taken from veterinarians, Kerr said.
There are at least two types of fleas among the creatures he pulls from his children, he said, but he is not sure what species.
Fleas can be infected with a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can be transmitted to humans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The most common tick disease that can spread is Lyme, which was first diagnosed 45 years ago. In most cases, lice must remain attached to their host for 36 to 48 hours before Lyme disease can be transmitted, the CDC said.
That is why it is important to find lice and eliminate them as soon as possible after spending time outdoors, said Erwin “Duke” Elsner, entomologist and educator at the University of Michigan Counseling.
The species most likely to carry Lyme disease are black-legged fleas or deer. It’s not as common as American dog fleas, Elsner said, but both can be found at the neck of this forest.
“Because it’s so small that it’s very difficult to detect,” Elsner said.
Plus, scientists say they were built to survive.
“Head lice are very durable in that they are able to withstand the weather and go without food for a long period of time,” Elsner said.
The recent mild winters of course make it easier for the winter survival of “confusing little creatures,” he said.
Fleas depend on plants and wait for mammals or even reptiles to arrive and then attach to the passing host.
Scott Tucker, park superintendent at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, said he saw several reports that park visitors found lice this year.
“Ticks have come out,” he said. “I think it’s a little early, but this winter is strange.”
Bryan Watters from Traverse City spent a lot of time in the forest as a procurement forester for the Silver Leaf Sawmill in Elmira. He had found lice for weeks.
“A few weeks ago I got the first and last week I got a few,” Watters said.
Foresters say most of the lice he found were deer ticks which can carry Lyme disease. That’s why he uses heavy duty insect repellent every time he goes to the forest, he said.
The CDC recommends the care of clothing and external equipment with permethrin or DEET products to help prevent flea bites.