This article was originally published on July 6, 2017 and expired on August 1, 2017. It is provided here for archival purposes and may contain dated information.
Deer tick, the northern subspecies of the black-legged tick, spreads Lyme disease, perhaps the fastest rising, most under-reported serious disease in the U.S. There have been an estimated 300,000 cases of Lyme disease annually in the U.S. in recent years. Lyme disease is transmitted by the deer tick from native mice and occurs primarily in the northern two-thirds of Illinois. Reported cases in the state have climbed steadily. In recent years, deer ticks have become more common in Illinois, and thus it is expected that Lyme disease will continue to increase.
Deer tick larvae feed on native mice, picking up Lyme disease, which can be transmitted to people by the tick nymphs and adults. June is when deer tick nymphs are most abundant. The pinhead-sized nymphs are common in forested areas with abundant leaf litter, being the same habitat as native mice that are their primary host.
American dog ticks, commonly known as wood ticks, are the most common in Illinois. They feed as larvae and nymphs on small mammals, only attacking humans when adult. Adults are reddish brown, 3/16 inch long. Females have a silver shield behind the head; males have silver, wiggly lines down the back. In Illinois, these ticks transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever as well as Anaplasmosis.
Lone star ticks feed on humans and other mammals as larvae, nymphs, and adults. Larvae and nymphs are commonly called seed ticks because of their size. Walking through an area of newly hatched larvae may result in hundreds attacking your legs. Adults are about 1/8 inch in diameter, roundish, and brown; females have a white spot in the middle of the back.
Ticks are most common in wooded areas and those with tall grass, but they can be associated with any vegetation. Protect yourself from ticks with repellents containing DEET or picaridin which are sold in the main brands such as Off and Cutters. Lemongrass oil repellent is marketed as EcoSmart Insect Repellent.
All of these repellents are effective, lasting over an hour per application, and commonly several hours. Herbal repellents commonly are not effective for more than 20 minutes, and many have not been tested for safe use. Repellents containing 20-30% DEET are the most effective in repellency and longevity. Higher concentrations of DEET do not last as long, probably because the lotion components in lower concentration products reduce evaporation.
There are also permethrin (Permanone) containing clothes treatments that will kill ticks on clothing. Wear light-colored clothes so that it is easier to see ticks crawling on them. Wearing long pants with the cuffs tucked into boots reduces the likelihood of ticks crawling up the legs.
If a tick is attached, grasp the head area 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.
Source: Rhonda J. Ferree, Extension Educator, Horticulture, email@example.com
Pull date: August 1, 2017