Register for an account


Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.


Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.


Worried About Lyme Disease? Blame the Acorns

Fluctuations in the food chain mean there are tons of ticks out in the woods, and they'll be looking at us humans as food.

By Jennifer BaroneJuly 9, 2012 5:00 AM
Acorn: iStockphoto, Mouse: Courtesy Phil Meyers/Animal Diversity Lab/<a href=""></a>, Tick: Courtesy Scott Bauer/USDA | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Outdoors lovers beware: This summer could bring an unprecedented spike in Lyme disease. Richard Ostfeld of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York reports that risk in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic states rises and falls with acorn crops. Acorns are an important food source for the white-footed mouse, a popular target of the ticks that carry the Lyme bacterium. Ostfeld’s surveys suggest that a recent crash in acorns will cause the mouse population to plummet, leaving more black-legged ticks to bite us. Up to 90 percent of Lyme infections go unreported, but the national record for confirmed cases, set in 2009, is 30,000. That number could rise 20 percent in 2012.

Update, July 11, 2012: A more recent study suggests that the tick population is a more complicated question involving more factors than just mice, acorns, and deer. Specifically, the researchers found that in some areas, the number of rodent-eating predators like foxes seemed to move inversely with the prevalence of Lyme disease; when those predators disappear, the disease may get a boost. 

3 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 50%


Already a subscriber? Register or Log In