For Release May 16, 2000
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
I am surprised at how many people have mentioned what a bad tick year it is. Iíve asked several of these people why it seems like such a bad tick year. Every one of them has responded that they feel itís a bad tick year because theyíve found ticks on themselves or their clothing. Given that line of logic, I guess then, every year is a bad tick year for me. Thatís probably just an accepted hazard that goes with my job and my hobbies though.
In reality, the tick numbers are up this year. There are more ticks and they were active earlier than normal. Both of these are a function of the mild winter that we experienced. If the weather becomes damp, the problem will be worse. If it gets dryer, then the problem will lessen, a little. The truth remains, however, that we have a lot of ticks every year in Kansas.
Letís dispel a few rumors about ticks. Most of the ticks that we encounter in the Geary County/Junction City area are going to be hard ticks, specifically, the American Dog Tick and the Lone Star Tick. I hear a lot of people talk about finding a wood tick. We do not have a "wood tick". There is a Rocky Mountain Wood Tick that is found from the Rocky Mountain states and west. It is closely related to the American Dog Tick.
Since many people refer to a large dark tick as a wood tick, some people get the idea that the only place they are going to encounter a tick is in the woods. This is not so. Ticks can be found in lawns, in pastures, in fact, you can find ticks just about anywhere that there is vegetation growing. You can walk down your sidewalk, brush up against a shrub or some grass and pick up a tick. When a tick is ready for a meal, it climbs up any handy vegetation and waits there with its front feet waving in the air. When something brushes by, it grabs on and starts climbing up.
Ticks do not wait in branches to drop onto your head. Ticks will almost always climb up. This is an important tidbit of information that you can use in personal safety. If you are going to be where there may be ticks, tuck your pant legs into your socks and your shirt into your pants. This will keep ticks on the outside of your clothing where they are easier to see and remove.
Ticks feed exclusively on the blood of animals. When they are on a suitable host they will crawl around for several hours trying to find a good place to feed. When they find a good location, they slowly bury their mouth parts into the skin. This process takes time also. A tick can be partially "attached" and not yet be feeding.
Lone Star Ticks are becoming more common in this area, and may now be as common, or more common, then the American Dog Tick. Lone Star Ticks have much longer mouth parts which allow them to feed more deeply and making them harder to remove. They also cause more host skin reactions. A red spot where a Lone Star Tick was attached is very common and may last a couple of weeks. This local inflammation will develop within a day or two and should not be confused with the more delayed skin reaction from Lyme Disease.
Lyme Disease is just one of several tick borne diseases that we can contract here in Kansas. Any tick bite is a potential problem. If possible, keep the tick that you removed in alcohol and watch for abnormal reactions following the bite. Use insect repellents when you are outdoors and conduct regular body inspections for ticks after returning inside. Insect repellents containing DEET are very effective when used following label directions. I have had excellent success with the clothing treatments containing permethrin. For more information on ticks, stop by the Extension Office and ask for a copy of the bulletin, "Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases."
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