Studies are being done to determine factors that play into the survival of ticks, but an increase in ticks is hard to determine.

Kateryn Rochon, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Entomology at the University of Manitoba. Her research team includes Ph.D. Neil Chilton at University of Saskatchewan and Ph.D. Shaun Dergousoff at Agriculture Canada in Lethbridge.

"It might seem like there's more ticks around this season, and there very well might be more than, let's say, last year or even the year before. But we don't have any kind of way to measure and demonstrate a true increase in the number of ticks," Rochon explained.

Although we can't tell if ticks are increasing in our area, we do know that ticks are spreading to new parts of the prairies.

"Together we are working on models to figure out where we're most likely to find wood ticks, and eventually, we're also trying to find ways to predict if it's going to be a good year, a bad year, and where," said Rochon.

The study is prairie-wide, and covers Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and the interior part of B.C.

"This is supported by cattle producers because the wood tick can transmit to cattle," explained Rochon. "Over the last 3 years we sampled throughout those provinces and found that the wood tick has expanded in its distribution, we found them about 400 km north of where they were previously reported."

By the time we see a wood tick, also called an American dog tick, it's already two years of age.

"Within those two years... many things can happen that will have an impact on that generation of tick," Rochon said.

Factors that could have an impact on the number of ticks include a flood, drought, or cold weather while the tick is in the nymph stage.

"It has to do with moisture, it has to do with temperature, vegetation to a point. But where these factors come in, and where they're critical for survival, we don't understand that very well yet."

Deer ticks, also called blacklegged ticks, are newer in Manitoba and can transmit bacteria such as Lyme Disease.

"They are far less common than the wood tick, but they are also increasing in abundance," said Rochon, noting they're finding more in the province compared to 5-10 years ago.