Nymphs questing through the forest. The phrase conjures up images of a scene from Game of Thrones. But encountering a real nymph on its quest offers a potentially harmful brush with climate change.
Immature deer ticks are called questing nymphs. They now inhabit a wide swath of North American forests, but they didn’t always. During early summer, their quest is for blood. The season now starts earlier and lasts longer than it did in the past, which is good for the ticks. But it’s bad for humans, because these ticks carry the bacteria, viruses, and parasites that cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, deer tick encephalitis, and babesiosis.
I have collected thousands of nymphs as part of my dissertation research on the invasion of Lyme disease across North America. I’ve witnessed along the way that where these ticks thrive has been heavily influenced by humans.