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Good Question: What Good Do Ticks Do?

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(credit: CBS) Jason DeRusha
Jason DeRusha filed his first report for WCCO-TV on April Fool's D...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The warm spring has meant an early visit from Minnesota’s blood-sucking, disease-carrying insect: the tick.

“Other than spreading disease, what purpose do wood ticks serve?” emailed Bobby, a viewer from St. Michael.

There are 13 species of ticks lurking in Minnesota lawns and our forests.

So, is there anything good about ticks? Good Question.

“I would say we could probably come up with some things,” said University of Minnesota Extension entomologist Jeff Hahn.

Hahn is a bug specialist, who says that a lot of ticks don’t really bother people.

“Not all ticks bite people. So, we don’t have a vendetta against all ticks,” he said.

The blacklegged tick, commonly called the deer tick, is the really bad guy here.

“Mosquitos can transmit diseases … but there are many more cases of tick vector diseases here in Minnesota than there are mosquito vector diseases,” said Hahn.

The deer tick carries Lyme disease and human anaplasmosis, so its bite can be a killer. Wood ticks can carry Rocky Mountain Fever, but rarely around here. So, if you’re looking for positives, well, you’d have to be a disease pathogen to be a big fan of the tick.

“They can be challenging to kill,” noted Hahn, pointing to the ticks power to persevere. One woman told us to get rid of ticks “you can rip them in half, put them in a jar of gasoline.”

Ticks aren’t any other animals’ main source of food, although Hahn said desperate small mammals and birds will sometimes snack on a tick.

“They contribute to the diversity of creatures on this world, so that’s a positive,” he said, “the more diversity there is the better.”

The reality is, if you’re looking for the tick’s greater good, in order to feel better about them being a terrible, disease-spreading pest: “I’m afraid I can’t help people out a whole lot with that,” laughed Hahn.

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