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Tackling Tick Troubles

As we are enjoying an unseasonably warm early spring in the Mohawk Valley, it brings with it an unwelcome guest – ticks. Usually ticks don’t become active in the environment until late April through October, but the current weather conditions have led to a spike in the tick population. If you enjoy walking in the fields and woods either by yourself or with your pets, you have undoubtedly seen them already this year.

These tiny creatures not only cause annoyance but also pose significant health risks due to the diseases they carry, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. As we enjoy the out of doors, it is important that we know what types of ticks we will encounter and practice effective strategies for preventing tick bites.

Various ticks next to a dime

Identifying Ticks:

Before delving into prevention methods, it’s essential to understand the various types of ticks commonly found in the Mohawk Valley:

  • Blacklegged Tick: Also known as the deer tick, this species is notorious for transmitting Lyme disease, among other illnesses. Blacklegged ticks need warmth and humidity to survive and are primarily found in forests and the grasslands bordering forests.
  • Lone Star Tick: Recognizable by the single white dot on the back of adult females, this species can transmit diseases such as ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lone Star Ticks prefer woodlands with dense undergrowth and around animal resting areas, such as deer bedding spots.
  • Dog Tick: Larger compared to other ticks, the dog tick can transmit diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Dog ticks prefer open fields and scrublands as well as trails, walkways and sidewalks.

It is important to note that all three species of ticks in the region are part of the genus Ixodidae and share a common life cycle. They each live for two years and need three different hosts to survive. As each species advance in the life cycle, they grow larger and generally need to attach to larger host animals to survive. At each stage, the ticks are capable of passing on disease to their host so it is important to be aware of them throughout the warm season.

Preventing Tick Bites:

Effective strategies for keeping these pesky parasites at bay:

  • Managing Landscape: Keep grassy areas mowed short, remove leaf litter, and trim bushes to reduce tick habitat in your yard.
  • Applying Tick Specific Arcacides: Because ticks are so widespread in the environment, it is not practical or safe to broadcast pest control products in your yards. One safe method is deploying “Tick Tubes” on your property in areas that border woods and fields. The “Tick Tubes” are cardboard tubes that contain cotton saturated in permethrin, a safe product to use against ticks. Mice find the “Tick Tubes” and take the cotton back to their nests. As mice are a primary vector for tick larvae and nymphs, it kills them early in their life cycle before they can attack your family.
  • Walking Through Tick Habitat: When venturing into wooded or grassy areas where ticks thrive, wear long pants, long sleeves, and tuck your pants into your socks to minimize skin exposure. Keep a set of clothing sprayed with Permethrin at your home for outdoor activities. The Permethrin will repel the ticks and it remains active after several wash cycles.
  • Conducting Tick Checks: After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check yourself, your children, and pets for ticks. Pay close attention to areas such as the scalp, behind the ears, underarms, and groin area.
  • Removing Ticks: If you find a tick attached to your skin, remove it promptly using fine-tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water after removal.
Various habitats that ticks are in

As warmer temperatures beckon us outdoors, it’s crucial to be vigilant against tick bites while enjoying being outside. By familiarizing ourselves with the types of ticks prevalent in the area and implementing proactive prevention measures, we can minimize the risk of tick-borne illnesses and enjoy our outdoor adventures safely. Remember, prevention is key when it comes to tackling tick troubles. Stay informed, stay protected, and stay tick-free!

For more information on ticks, please visiting the New York State Integrated Pest Management website.  Also visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension Herkimer County website for more tick resources.

tick found in woody (brown), edge (light green, and grass (green) areas
Lone star tick
lone star tick