Tufts University professor Sam R. Telford III responded with a prolonged guffaw the other day when he heard the question, the same one he gets every spring: Will Massachusetts have a big population of deer ticks this year?
“Every year I’ve been wrong,” said Telford, who demurred this time. “It’s not because I don’t know anything about ticks.” Quite the contrary: A specialist in diseases transmitted by animals, he has spent decades studying the eight-legged fiends known to entomologists as Ixodes scapularis and to the rest of us as the bugs that transmit Lyme disease.
And one thing Telford has learned is that the tick census is unpredictable. Too many variables affect population size — variables so numerous and hyperlocal that one person’s yard can be teeming while the next door neighbor’s is pristine.
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