Ten Questions: Ticks

Amblyomma americanum tickI'm going to give this ten questions thing a try. Looks like fun. With all the nature lovers reading Nature Center Magazine, I know there are lots of people here who like to travel off the beaten path. We are the explorers of nature after all. And there are lots of things waiting to help themselves at your expense if you aren't careful. Ticks are one of those things. So let's see if we can answer 10 questions about these little critters.

I can't tell you all about ticks with only 10 questions but maybe I can make you aware of a few things.

What kind of insect are ticks?
Ticks are not insects. They are arachnids like spiders.

Do ticks really spread disease?
Boy, do they! Besides Lyme disease, there is Q fever, Colorado tick fever, tick-borne relapsing fever, babesiosis, tularemia, ehrlichiosis, tick-borne meningoencephalitis just to name a few.

Why do ticks attach themselves to other animals?
Ticks live on the blood of the animal (including us humans) they attach to.

Why don't I feel it when a tick bites?
Many ticks secrete or regurgitate small amounts of saliva that contain neurotoxins. These are nerve poisons that anesthetize the area. Some people are allergic to these secretions and could have a severe allergic reaction to the tick bite.

Then how can I tell if I have a tick bite?
About the only way is to check your whole body thoroughly at least once a day, paying close attention to exposed areas and creases and hairy places. If you are able, more often is a good idea, especially with kids.

What should I do if I find a tick?
Use alcohol to disinfect the area. Then use pointed tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible which should be right above the tick's head. Pull slowly and steadily upward to avoid breaking the tick. Remember that it's head is at least partly burrowed under the skin. Wash the area and your hands with soap and water.Try to save the tick for examination by someone who can properly identify it and check for disease. Also watch for signs of infection at the site of the bite and be aware of any symptoms of disease.

How can I avoid ticks?
Try to avoid known tick-infested areas. Wear protective clothing (long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots or sturdy shoes, and head covering). Light colored clothes make it easier to see ticks. Tuck your pants legs into your socks and tape the area where socks and pants meet. Don't forget to check for ticks anyway.

Is there tick repellent?
Permethrin can be used to treat clothing. While it is available to use on skin, try clothes first. The EPA has determined that is is safe for children and infants if used on clothing. It comes in a spray, liquid, and cream.

How do I make my home safe from ticks?
Ticks do not like dry conditions or short grass so the best way is to keep your lawn cut and weed free. Clean up areas that might attract rodents, such as spilled birdseed and old wood piles. Weeds along edges of your property that can't be mowed can be treated with insecticide.

What about pets?
Check periodically for ticks. Pets can be affected by ticks in the same ways we can. Ticks can also change hosts or reproduce if left unchecked. If you see a tick on your carpet, vacuum it immediately, seal the bag and dispose of it. If your house becomes a haven for ticks, you will have to have it professionally treated.

Well I now know more about ticks than I want to. How about you?



  1. After reading this I think I'll stay indoors today! :-)

  2. I hate, hate, hate them! Also remember that if you experience a "bullseye" red mark after being bit by a tick you have a chance of it being Lyme's Disease and to make an appt. with your physician right away so he can look at the red circle bite while it is still visible.

  3. In areas where ticks are staying they have a radar for warm blooded creatures using the same trails. Stay off the trail a bit and avoid them easier.

  4. Due to a glitch at Blogger the comments that were left yesterday have disappeared.Out on the Prairie, Retired One, and Don't Snub the Hub were the ones who commented if I remember right. Joan reminded us to seek medical attention if you see a round bulls-eye type welt around a tick bite. This holds true for any rash. Out on the Prairie said that even a good path in an infected area is a place that might have ticks. And Don't Snub the Hub, I sure hope you don't give up the walks through the fields that I've seen you write about. Thanks for all the comments. If there were others, I didn't get a chance to see them before they were gone. Feel free to visit again.


  5. Ticks are my worst enemy! This is an excellent post for everyone who has to deal with them in the forests. Thanks!


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