Ticks are Still Out in Full Force!
The heat of summer is finally over and it’s time to get back outside and enjoy the splendor of fall! Just be careful while you’re out there. Ticks are still out in full force.
Fall isn’t a seasonal break for tick activity. Think about it logically. All spring, the adults have been busy feeding and laying eggs in the leaf litter. What do you think happened to those eggs? The hatched in the heat of summer and are now feeding too!
It takes about 2 years for a deer tick (the kind known to carry Lyme disease) to go from egg to reproductive adult, depending on the weather and the resources available. These highly-adapted parasitic insects feed on the blood of a host, typically a mammal but birds and reptiles will do just as well in a pinch.
The eggs of a tick are fertilized in the fall and in the spring they are distributed into leaf litter or long grasses. They usually hatch and emerge as larvae in the summer. This is when they begin to seek out blood meals. Most cases of Lyme disease are reported from bites received between May and August, corresponding with this hatching season.
After this meal, the ticks drop from the host and molt. As they molt into their nymph stage, they become dormant but this won’t happen till later in the cooler weather. They’ll still be hatching and feeding well into fall! The next spring, they will feed again and molt again, this time into adults. This stage (nymph to adult) usually peaks from August to October so fall is still a prime season for ticks.
Ticks in all their life stages usually live low to the ground in leaf litter or in tall grasses when they have some protection from the sun. Reducing the tick population on your property can be as easy as mowing the grass. Keeping your yard trimmed and mowed will cut down on tick activity by removing their breeding grounds and living quarters.
This won’t remove your risk or that of your beloved pets entirely however. Ticks are tough and wily insects and they can be quite determined when they’re hunting for food. You could still find them on your pet or your person after hiking, camping, walking or even just being outside in your own yard. It’s important to know what to do if you find a tick in mid-meal.
First the “Don’ts”.
- DON’T squeeze the tick in any way. This will just cause it to spew its gut contents into your skin, increasing your risk for tick-borne disease infection.
- DON’T pick it off with your fingers or fingernails.
- DON’T cover it with nail polish, nail polish remover, alcohol, petroleum jelly or any other irritating substance. These could also make the tick dump its stomach into the bite site.
- DON’T use a match, lit cigarette or lighter to make the tick “back out”. You’ll burn the skin before you convince the hard-shelled tick to move.
- DON’T worry if the mouthparts break off in your skin during removal. Just remove them like splinter.
Now the “Dos”.
- DO remove a tick immediately after finding it or have a professional remove it. Waiting just increases the chances of incurring a tick-borne disease.
- DO use a tick removal tool or blunt set of tweezers to remove a tick whole.
- DO use steady, even pressure to gently pull the tick out without twisting or squeezing it.
- DO save the tick in alcohol so your vet or doctor can identify and examine it.
- DO clean the area thoroughly with soap and water after removal.
- DO watch the bite site for up to 30 days to see if a rash or reaction occurs.
- DO seek medical attention for any reactions.
Keep an eye out for ticks this fall. They’re busier than you think.