If You Go Into The Woods Today – by Eleanor Cox

This article was written by Eleanor Cox and was first printed in the Landowner Magazine.

May was Lyme Disease Awareness Month world-wide. This disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi, and is commonly transmitted to humans by ticks. Some people develop an expanding, reddish rash a few days after the tick bite. If a rash develops, it may look like a bull’s eye, but it can also be a uniform reddish colour. It is very important to get early treatment, so that the bacteria do not become established in deep-seated tissues in the body.

If left untreated, the most common Lyme disease symptoms are fatigue, joint and muscle ache and pain, tingling numbness, burning sensations, forgetfulness, poor short-term memory and disturbed sleep. Lyme disease can mimic other diseases such as MS, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

When hiking or camping, it is important to stay on groomed trails where ticks are unlikely to be hiding. If walking in the bush, wear light-coloured clothing and tuck your pants into your socks. When you return home, do a tick check on yourself and your pets. If you find a tick, remove it with fine-pointed tweezers, by grasping it as close to your skin as possible, and pull it straight out. If the tick is alive, save it in a vial with a slightly moistened piece of paper towel. If the tick is punctured, damaged or dead, place it in a tightly sealed vial of ethyl alcohol to preserve it. Take the tick to your Health Unit to have it identified, and tested for Lyme disease. See your health-care provider if symptoms occur after a tick bite. Take a coloured digital photo of any rashes that develop.

Research conducted by Lyme Ontario reveals that songbirds widely disperse Lyme disease-carrying ticks across Canada. Therefore, people do not have to go to an endemic area to contract the disease. A recent study found that 35% of the blacklegged tick nymphs that were collected from songbirds during northward spring migration were infected with the Lyme disease bacteria. People can be bitten in their own backyard.


January 2014 – The Establishment of a Blacklegged Tick Population by Migratory Songbirds in Ontario, Canada. (Scientific article, Scott et al. 2014)

The tick investigation was conducted on independently owned land, which is located on the southern fringe of the Canadian Shield, west of Verona, Frontenac County, in eastern Ontario, Canada. At this location, the Lyme disease Bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, a cork screw- shaped spirochete, was discovered in host-seeking ticks on low-lying vegetation.

The 2-year study revealed that I. scapularis, or blacklegged ticks overwintered successfully at this remote habitant, and this tick species was in plentiful numbers the following spring. The B. burgdorferi infection prevalence was not only maintained from fall to the following spring, it increased at this epicentre. Overall, 19 (33.3 %) of 57 blacklegged tick adults (fall 2012, 29.4%; spring 2013, 39.4%) were positive for B. burgdorferi. For the spring 2013 collection, 10 live cultures of B. burgdorferi were obtained.

Certain song birds are reservoir-competent hosts of B. burgdorferi. Using xenodiagnoses tests, Richter et al. (2000) determined that the American Robin, can harbour B. burgdorferi in its body for 6 months and, as a result, engorging larval and nymphal I. scapularis can subsequently become infected. Birds can act as reservoir competent hosts. Whenever songbirds become infected with B. burgdorferi, they can transport infection to bird-feeding ticks, and these ticks, can start a new Lyme disease endemic area.

Health officials in Toronto, as well as York and Durham regions, are warning the public to be vigilant, after blacklegged ticks in the Rouge Valley tested positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Published Nov. 26, 2014. Lyme Ontario has documented established populations of blacklegged ticks and the Lyme bacteria, B. burgdorferi throughout Ontario:

Point Pelee National Park, Rondeau Provincial Park, Long Point, (2) areas, Turkey Point Provincial Park, Turkey Point lowlands, Wainfleet Bog Conservation Area, Toronto Rouge Valley, Presqu’ile Provincial Park, Prince Edward Point National Area, Verona, Frontenac County, St. Lawrence Islands National Park (3) areas, Murphy’s Point Provincial Park, and Charleston Lake Provincial Park.

Learn more about Lyme Disease. Visit Lyme Ontario at www.lymeontario.com for more information.