Lyme Not Propelled by Climate Change

Recently, a plethora of books and articles have come out on how climate change is driving Lyme disease, and in fact, a recent article by The Center for Public Integrity, flat out accuses Maine’s governor, who happens to be a climate skeptic, of tying health officials’ hands and personally impeding valuable tick borne illness research:

It has become clear to many that there is a Pied Piper pushing a climate change agenda.

Standing in opposition to the flutist’s tune, a recent study shows that warm winters are lethal to I. scapularis (black-legged) ticks.  In fact, overwinter survival dropped to 33% when the snow melted.  This has been substantiated by other researchers as well.  Scott & Scott, 2018, ticks and climate change, JVSM

The short of it is that snow cover is vital for tick survival as it serves as a buffer for when ticks find themselves exposed.  Typically ticks will seek out and hide in snow or leaf litter when conditions become harsh.  Without this buffer they are exposed and fewer survive.


“Tick Guy” Tom Mather shows how ticks survive 3 degrees in 24 hours with snow cover.

The flutists insist that global warming, climate change, and pollution are the reasons for the spread of ticks and Lyme disease.  Independent tick researcher John Scott states those hypotheses are unsubstantiated.

Scott offers that yearly bidirectional, songbird migration in spring and fall is behind tick expansion and that the climate change model actually reflects migratory flight not warmer futuristic temperatures.

An Acadian Flycatcher with larval neotropical ticks.  (Courtesy Tim Guida)

One of Scott’s studies found 35% of song-bird transported I. scapularis nymphs to be infected with B burgdorferi (Bb).  Further, these heavily tick infested migrating song-birds can start new foci of ticks on islands and remote mainland areas.

Birds are serving as transport systems for ticks and are spreading them all over the world.

The other crucial but overlooked factor climate change researchers have not been considering is something called photoperiod.

Evidently, ticks have sensory organs that monitor the external environment which includes light.  Light wavelength as well as intensity will make the difference from if and when a nymph will molt and if and when an engorged female will lay eggs.

In a nutshell, light (photoperiod) has much more of an impact on ticks than temperature.

Scott’s in-house tick studies have shown that black-legged ticks require 14 hours of daylight to molt.  If ticks can’t molt, they can’t move on to their next life-cycle.  Photoperiod is innate and can not be altered by the climate.  He states:

“The hypothesis that I. scapularis ticks will expand further north in the Prairie Provinces because of climate change is not only unscientific, but deceiving.”

He demonstrates this by noting that I. scapularis ticks are not established in the Neotropics where the temperature is warmer.  The reason for this is the photoperiod is balanced between night and day.  In other words, the ticks have less light than they need to molt.

The study points out that both ticks and spirochetes are ecoadaptive survivors as demonstrated by the fact borrelial spirochetes have survived for thousands of years,, and so have infected ticks:  (This one infected with a Babesia species).  This survival demonstrates adaptation to any potential climate shifts.

Another problem with the climate change models is they overlook the fact that deer ticks were established in northwestern Ontario, southern Manitoba and were already in central Canada prior to 1970.  What they predict to happen in the future has already happened in Canada.  Their oversight caused a skewed rate of tick expansion and a miscalculation of northward projected movement.

“For blacklegged ticks, climate change is an apocryphal issue.” -John Scott

The study states that another problem is the over-emphasis on white-footed mice:  Scott has shown that there are established populations of deer ticks in Manitoba as well as in insular, hyper-endemic Corkscrew Island, yet both are devoid of white-footed mice.  He points out that there are numerous reservoir hosts that must be considered including other mammals, birds, and reptiles.

For decades we’ve been told it’s the mice.  Yet a real problem in the West and South are reptiles like skinks and lizards:,

Another problem with the climate change insistence is study time vs. deer tick establishment.  The progression of studies used by some researchers follows the order in which they were conducted not the result and progression of climate change, and just because U.S. studies start in the early 80’s does not mean that was when ticks were established.  As noted before, ticks and spirochetes have both been found in fossils, obviously long before the 80’s.  This demonstrates climate adaptability.

“The time-lapse model sharply conflicts with the actual areas designated as Lyme disease foci.  Such models contradict field data, and misrepresent the Lyme disease timeline of tick establishment in Canada.”  – John Scott

Also, climate-change researchers overlooked and did not take into account established populations of I. scapularis found in the late 1960’s in the upper Midwest, as well as at Manitoba in 1991, in their climate change model maps.  Even game hunters remember ticks on the heads and necks of deer in the 1950’s and 1960’s in northwestern Ontario and southern Manitoba.  The faulty climate change maps are devoid of any ticks in those areas – yet experience shows otherwise.  This has been the experience of patients across the globe as well.

The study states that migratory song-birds transport black-legged tick larvae and nymphs hundreds of kilometers during northward migratory flights and are important drivers for wide-spread dispersal not only of ticks but of tick-associated pathogens.  

This is shown by the fact that neotropical songbirds are transporting ticks from Brazil into Canada.  Neotropical Amblyomma ticks do not overwinter in Canada yet they are being transported there.  Birds are also transporting Ixodes spp. ticks as well.  Scott claims if there was any substance to climate warming in propagating ticks the Amblyomma americium (lone star tick) would have become established in the southernmost part of Ontario, but they haven’t.

Thankfully others are studying the bird component as well:,,,

In sum,

  • certain researchers are predicting a spread of LD due to climate change
  • independent tick research John Scott says these are “spurious and unsubstantiated” contentions
  • birds, not weather, are propagating the spread of ticks and disease
  • transmission depends on whether a tick is infected and whether the tick has vector competence
  • during bad weather ticks adapt by finding cover
  • warmer temperatures actually reduce tick populations
  • temperature and precipitation has no bearing on tick abundance
  • climate change alarmists have used Canadian studies making 1970 their benchmark for models but didn’t take into account established tick populations that had already been in existence for decades, centuries, or even millennia at northern latitudes
  • regarding ticks, climate change is insignificant

Scott JD, Scott CM. Lyme Disease Propelled by Borrelia burgdorferi-infected Blacklegged Ticks, Wild Birds, and Public Awareness – Not Climate Change. J Veter Sci Med 6(1):8 (2018)  Scott & Scott, 2018, ticks and climate change, JVSM

For an interview with Scott:

“The climate change range expansion model is what the authorities have been using to rationalize how they have done nothing for more than thirty years. It’s a huge cover-up scheme that goes back to the 1980’s. The grandiose scheme was a nefarious plot to let doctors off the hook from having to deal with this debilitating disease. I caught onto it very quickly. Most people have been victims of it ever since.  This climate change ‘theory’ is all part of a well-planned scheme. Even the ticks are smarter than the people who’ve concocted this thing.  Climate change has nothing to do with tick movement. Blacklegged ticks are ecoadaptive, and tolerate wide temperature fluctuations…..It’s all a red herring to divert your attention.”- John Scott

And in conclusion, climate change data has not and will not help Lyme/MSIDS patients and/or the doctors who treat them. Time to hunker down and get to work spending money and backing research that relieves human suffering.