Some natural predator must have died out because the ticks in New Jersey are out of control

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

I grew up in New Jersey in the 1970s and 1980s. Myself and my younger brother played outside, every evening after school, and all day on weekends. On Saturday mornings we would disappear into the woods and play games there till it was dark. When I was 10 years old it was common for us to gather up our friends and initiate a game like Capture The Flag. We were in the woods for 12 hours straight. If we heard out mothers crying out that it was dinner time, then we knew it was time to go home.

I remember the first time my mom found a tick on me. At that time there was no concern about Lyme, but still, they were considered gross, like spiders and mosquitos. The next year I found another one on me. I know I went some summers without finding any ticks, but during my childhood there were definitely 3 or 4, maybe 5. Each time was remarkable enough to warrant a conversation. But each incident was rare, just one of the many risks of being out in the woods. Spiders and snakes were considered bigger dangers, I had a friend who was bit in the hand by a poisonous snake and the doctors had to amputate half of her thumb.

But something has changed.

This summer I’ve been helping clean up the yard at my mom’s house. The number of ticks I’ve run into this summer has been insane. Mind you, my mom has not moved. We are talking about the same house, the same neighborhood, the same trees.

Perhaps ticks once had some natural predator, and that predator has died off. Or perhaps it is the lack of harsh winters.

When I was child one of my responsibilities was cutting the hedge with the chainsaw, keeping the hedge well-managed. I only once, over several years, got a tick while doing this. But the other day I went out with the chainsaw and worked on the hedge and afterwards I found 3 ticks on me. I was shocked. I was astonished. Can you imagine if this had happened when I was child? My parents would have been very concerned if ticks had been this common when I was child.

Last week I came out from New York, then decided to go for a walk. I stayed on the paved sidewalk. At the end of the walk I found a tick on me. I had not brushed against any bushes, nor touched any trees. I suppose it had been hiding in some grass that I walked across, one of those mossy eruptions between slats of cement? Or it jumped off a tree onto me? I was astonished that I could get a tick simply walking on the paved sidewalk.

We had a bad storm last week so I picked up the fallen branches. I got two ticks on me.

What has happened? If New Jersey had had this many ticks when I was a child, then we would not have been so easy playing in the woods for 12 hours a day. And we would have come home covered with dozens of ticks, which certainly did not happen.

Something has changed. The situation is out of control.