What are Ticks? Ticks are not insects but Arachnids, a class of Arthropods, which also includes mites, spiders and scorpions. Ticks are parasites that feed by latching on to an animal host, imbedding their mouthparts into the host's skin and sucking its blood. This method of feeding enables ticks to harbor and transmit diseases. Ticks are responsible for at least ten different known diseases in humans in the U.S., including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ticks can also transmit diseases to our pets.
Does cold weather kill ticks? NO. Ticks do not die in the winter cold. They do not die until they have lived their two-year life cycle. They survive the cold by burrowing underground, hiding in tall grass, or in shrubs. They will remain inactive in temperatures below 45° F. The warmer temperatures are bringing them out of their winter nap so you should start seeing them.
How about prevention and control? Young deer ticks often hide in shady, moist ground litter, but adult ticks can often be found above the ground clinging to tall grass, brush, and shrubs. They also inhabit lawns and gardens, especially at the edges of woodlands and around old stone walls. No natural, vegetated area can be considered completely free of infected ticks.
Deer ticks cannot jump or fly, and do not drop from above onto a passing animal. Potential hosts (which include all wild birds and mammals, domestic animals, and humans) acquire ticks only by direct contact with them. Once a tick latches onto skin it generally climbs upward until it reaches a protected or creased area, often the back of the knee, armpit, ears, or neck. It then begins the process of inserting its mouthparts into the skin until it reaches the blood supply.
In tick-infested areas, the best precaution against ticks is to avoid contact with soil, leaf litter and vegetation as much as possible. However, if you garden, hike, camp, hunt, work outdoors or otherwise spend time in woods, brush or overgrown fields, you should use precautions to reduce your chances of getting a tick borne disease.
After spending time outdoors, make these easy precautions part of your routine:
§ Wear enclosed shoes and light-colored clothing with a tight weave to spot ticks easily
§ Scan clothes and any exposed skin frequently for ticks while outdoors
§ Stay on cleared, well-traveled trails
§ Use insect repellant containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes if you intend to go off-trail or into overgrown areas
§ Avoid sitting directly on the ground or on stone walls (havens for ticks and their hosts)
§ Keep long hair tied back, especially when gardening
§ Do a final, full-body tick-check at the end of the day (also check children and pets)
To remove a tick, from you or your pet, follow these steps:
1. Using a pair of pointed precision tweezers, grasp the tick by the head or mouth right where they enter the skin. DO NOT grasp the tick by the body.
2. Without jerking, pull firmly and steadily directly outward. DO NOT twist the tick out or apply petroleum jelly, a hot match, alcohol or any other irritant to the tick in an attempt to get it to back out.
3. Place the tick in a vial or jar of alcohol to kill it.
4. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant.
Being prepared can help you prevent health risks, to you and your pets, associated with the tick bites.