Ticks are blood-feeding parasites that are often found in tall grass where they will wait to attach to a passing host. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. A tick will attach itself to its host by inserting its cutting mandibles and feeding tube into the skin. The feeding tube is covered with re-curved teeth and serves as a hammer to puncture skin.
Changes in temperature and day length are some of the factors signalling a tick to seek a host. Ticks can detect heat emitted or carbon dioxide respired from a nearby host. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. In some cases ticks will live for some time on the blood of an animal. Ticks are more active outdoors in warm weather, but can attack a host at any time
Protection for Ticks
- Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes and a head covering. (Ticks are easier to detect on light-colored clothing.) Tuck trouser cuffs in socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
- Walk in the center of trails so weeds do not brush against you.
- Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease organisms until they have been attached four or more hours. If you're outdoor check yourself and pets every 2-3 hours.
- Apply insect repellent containing 10 percent to 30 percent DEET primarily to clothes. Apply sparingly to exposed skin. Do not spray directly to the face; spray the repellent onto hands and then apply to face.
- If ticks are crawling on the outside of clothes, they can be removed with masking tape or cellophane tape.
- The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue or cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick.
- Wash the bite area and your hands thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
- Make sure the property around your home is unattractive to ticks. Because ticks are sensitive to dry conditions and do not thrive in short vegetation, they are seldom a problem in well-maintained lawns. Keep your grass mowed and keep weeds cut. Clean up items that attract rodents which can carry ticks, such as spilled birdseed, and hiding places like old wood piles. If ticks are present in vegetation along the edge of the property, insecticides labeled for control of ticks can be applied to small areas of high weeds that cannot be mowed. Often, one or two applications per season will be adequate to control ticks in these areas.
- Free-roaming dogs and cats are much more likely to encounter ticks than those that are confined to the home or yard.