Ask the Entomologist: Preventing Ticks

March is Tick Awareness month in Canada. Mosquito Authority has locations in Canada, and ticks are everywhere in the US, so we are taking the opportunity this month to provide information on tick control and tick populations throughout our service areas.

Simply being aware of ticks is not enough, and there are many reasons to beware of ticks. We’ve reached out to our favorite entomologist, Dr. Craig Stoops, to answer our questions about ticks, tick control, and tick bite prevention.

 

What are the more common types of ticks?

Several medically important tick species have wide distributions within the United States and Canada. Important species include the Black legged tick, American Dog Tick and the Lone Star tick, but there are additional species that are important in public health. Please visit this U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for detailed information on tick species important in public health https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/geographic_distribution.html

Regardless of what species you have in your area you should take steps to protect yourself and your pets from ticks by using personal protection methods such as wearing a U.S. Envrionmental Protection Agency-approved repellent https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents and possibly wearing permethrin treated clothing https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/repellent-treated-clothing , tucking your pants into your socks when you are in an area that has ticks and checking yourself for ticks. Making your home less conducive for ticks is also important.

What does tick control in my yard look like? How often does my property need to be treated?

Tick control in your yard focuses on removing brush piles, unused rocks and microhabitats that provide suitable harborage for mice and other rodents that may serve as hosts for ticks. Keeping areas of your yard that you regularly use mowed is also important to preventing ticks from seeking hosts in tall grass.

Tick treatment with an EPA-approved insecticide or an all natural insecticide product is used to make a treated barrier in the transition zone between your lawn and a wooded area. This barrier will kill ticks that enter the barrier and prevent them from entering areas of your yard that you use often.

How do I know if I’ve been bitten by a tick?

The only way to be certain you have been bitten by a tick is to find the tick itself. If you do find a tick follow the steps found on this CDC website to safely remove the tick https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html.

CDC has also provided this excellent fact sheet on what to do after you have been bitten by a tick https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/pdfs/FS_TickBite-508.pdf

How do I prevent ticks from getting on me or my pet, especially if we’re not in our tick-free yard?

There are several important steps to prevent tick bites. The most important thing is to be aware that you are in a location that may have ticks present. Using an EPA-approved repellent is critical https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents and wearing permethrin treated clothing https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/repellent-treated-clothing can also provide an additional layer of protection. Tucking your pants in your socks and regularly checking yourself for ticks to remove them before they become embedded will also help prevent bites.

The EPA provides an online tool to help you choose which repellent is best for you: https://www.epa.gov/insect-repellents/find-repellent-right-you

Where do ticks live?

Ticks are found in habitats where their hosts live. For ticks such as the blacklegged ticks brushy habitats, or transition zones between backyards and wood lots where you find deer trails or food for deer, or brush piles and other areas you find mice are excellent habitats for the blacklegged and other tick species.

One of the most important places you find ticks is on a host such as a mouse, a deer, a human or even snakes and lizards! The hosts carry the ticks from location to location and once the ticks are done feeding on a host they fall off and find a suitable place in the leaf litter or another protected area to digest the blood meal.

Ticks that are looking to attach to hosts are often found in grassy areas where they wait for a suitable host to walk by so they can grab on and eventually embed themselves to feed. It is along trails both hiking and animal trails where these host seeking ticks are often found and picked up by us or our pets.

If you have deer and mice in your backyard there is a high probability you may have ticks in your backyard. And if you are out hiking, hunting or fishing in grassy and wooded areas where mice and deer are known to be, ticks will very likely be found there also.

It is important you be aware you may be in a location that has ticks and to take measures to protect yourself from tick bites.

Dr. Craig Stoops LCDR MSC USN (ret.) is a retired U.S. Navy Medical Entomologist who has conducted mosquito control and research in the United States and around the world. Craig earned a B.S. in Biology from Shippensburg University, and both an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Entomology from Clemson University. He is Board Certified by the Entomological Society of America in Medical and Veterinary Entomology. 

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