Chances are high that you have had an encounter with a tick. Ticks aren’t new — some evidence suggests they’ve been around and harboring disease for 15 to 20 million years. However, awareness and concern of ticks rose with the growing prevalence of Lyme disease — a disease that in 2016 accounted for 82 percent of tick born illnesses (CDC). And the trouble with ticks is growing in ways that are quite alarming. According to the CDC: “the distribution (geographic spread) and abundance (number) of ticks found throughout the northeast, is greater than any time in recorded history.”
According to the Cornell University New York State Integrated Pest Management (IPM) researchers, “Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with different tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region. More ticks in more places also increases your risk of tick encounters. Changes in land use such as construction of new neighborhoods and shopping centers leave small patches of wooded areas, and these are great habitat for deer and mice. More hosts mean more ticks. In addition, a warming climate expands the areas and seasons where ticks actively feed and reproduce.”
The notion of a tick “season” is fast slipping away as the range of ticks and their preferred habitats evolve. Peak tick time runs August to December and a portion of ticks will die in the freezing weather, however others will persist despite the hardship of cold temperatures.
In addition to the above environmental changes and adaptations, the trouble with ticks is that new species are appearing across the country — and that includes here in Central New York. New species include the longhorned tick and the lone star. In New York, the three most common ticks are the blacklegged tick, the lone star and the dog tick. Of these, it’s the blacklegged tick that carries Lyme, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan. The newer lone star tick is associated with the sudden onset of an allergy to meat.
So, what should you, or can you, do in this time of rising concern? First, be aware of the common habitats for, and behavior of, ticks. Common habitats include trail edge vegetation, understory vegetation, woods edge and grassy areas. The blacklegged tick likes high humidity or moisture, and “quests” on the ground for a host to attach to. The lone star tick is more active and may actually walk to a host — and it can survive in a wider range of habitat. The dog tick is more inclined to thrive in warm dry locations with adult ticks able to climb twigs to more easily attach to a host.
Next is preparation and monitoring:
•Do a daily tick check.
•Minimize and monitor ticks in your yard, school yards and other playground areas. There are many actions you can take to reduce the attractiveness of your yard to ticks.
•Dress to protect – long pants, high socks, long sleeves, head coverage, etc.
•Treat clothing – Permethrin treated clothing can kill ticks but be sure to follow the directions which includes not applying to clothing while it is being worn.
•Protect your pets from ticks and the diseases they carry.
For more information about ticks and protection against ticks, visit Cornell’s Don’t Get Ticked NY Website: dontgettickedny.org. You can also visit our CCE-MC Website and/or ‘like’ us on Facebook for easy access to more information including timely updates on this topic.
You can also contact our CCE-MC Educators at email@example.com or 315-684-3001 as well as our partnering agency in tick education, Madison County Department of Health, 315-366-2361.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.