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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Ticks

Posted by John Fulton -

It's another year of very high tick populations. Probably, the frequent spring rains in much of the state have provided the high moisture and humidity that ticks need. Ticks are large, flattened mites that feed as parasites on mammals, birds and reptiles. They hatch from eggs into six-legged larvae that locate hosts and feed before dropping off the host and molting into eight-legged nymphs. Nymphs locate hosts, feed and drop off to molt into eight-legged adults. Adults also locate hosts on which to feed. Males may stay on the host, mating with females coming there to feed. Females engorge on blood to several times their original size, drop off the host and lay hundreds of eggs. With each tick having to find three hosts in its lifetime, many ticks starve before reproducing, although ticks can survive for long periods without food.

Ticks are numerous in areas of tall grass, where humidity is high and hosts common. Mowing greatly reduces tick numbers. When walking or working in areas of tall grass or other areas with ticks, apply a repellent containing about 30% DEET, such as Off or Cutters, to the lower legs and pants legs. If ticks are numerous in mowed areas, spraying carbaryl, permethrin, or bifenthrin should help give some control.

If a tick is attached, grasp the head with tweezers where the mouthparts enter the skin, pulling slowly and consistently. The tick will release its mouthparts and come loose. Do not handle the tick. Other methods such as heat and nail polish commonly kill the tick, resulting in locked mouthparts that remain in the wound to cause infection. A tick typically feeds for 24 hours before releasing disease organisms; remove ticks promptly when you find them.



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