Extension Educator, Horticulture
Extension Educator, Small Farms and Local Food Systems
June 19, 2013
University of Illinois, Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup encourages gardeners and hikers to be wary of ticks this summer.
The sunny and wet spring has caused a flush of thick growth along the forest floor and the trails of the prairies. Nature enthusiasts exploring these areas are returning home with stowaways, an arachnid that uses sticky pads on their feet to attach to your clothing or skin. Ticks are large flattened mites that act as parasites who feed on blood from mammals, reptiles and birds. In addition to biting humans, ticks can also transmit diseases like Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Fever, and Tularemia to the host. Identification and prevention is key to reducing the hazards of tick bites.
Most ticks require at least three hosts throughout their two year life cycle (larva, nymph and adult) and can survive for long periods of time without a blood meal. Male ticks have silver markings and rarely enlarge after feeding. Female ticks have a large white area behind the head and will swell to a length of 1/2 inch after taking a meal of your blood. An adult female tick may lay up to 6,500 eggs before she dies.
The most common tick to attach to humans is the adult dog ticks. They are about 1/4 inch across and reddish-brown with eight legs. They can transmit Rocky Mountain fever and tularemia but it is rare.
The deer tick is smaller and about 1/8 inch in diameter and usually reddish in color with a black shield mark behind the head. The adult and nymphal stage can transmit Lyme disease to humans. The nymph is much smaller than the adult, about the size of a pinhead and best seen under a microscope. Deer ticks are most likely to be picked up in the northwestern and north central portions of Illinois.
-When visiting tall grassy or wooded areas, use an insect repellent containing DEET to all exposed skin.
-Tuck pant legs into the boots.
-Wear light colored clothing so ticks are easy to see.
-Check your clothing and person.
-Remove ticks in first 24-36 hours to prevent disease transmission.
-Use tweezers to grasp the tick close to the skin. If tweezers are not available use a piece of cloth. Avoid using matches.
-Wash area with disinfectant.
-Follow up with physician, if symptoms of tick-borne disease occur. Symptoms can be a rash or unexplained fever with flu-like illness (without a cough) during the month following a tick bite.