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Schmidt: Tick season is upon us

By Staff | May 27, 2016

With warmer spring weather, tick season is officially upon us-even though some folks in Pierce and surrounding counties have been seeing ticks since early April.

In North America, there are about 14 species of ticks. Three species are found in North Dakota: American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick and winter tick. Of these, American dog tick is the most common species.

While at one time the black-legged tick did not occur naturally in North Dakota and were only brought in from neighboring states, they have been slowing moving westward, and for the first time in recent years have been found and thought to be established in some areas of North Dakota. Lyme disease is vectored by the black-legged tick, also known as deer ticks.

Symptoms of Lyme disease include: Bull’s eye rash, headache, fever, and fatigue. In a worst case scenario, infections can cause arthritic joints, affect the nervous system causing facial paralysis, and also cause spinal cord, brain, or heart problems. Lyme disease must be treated immediately with antibiotics. Recovery, if treated early, can take 2-3 weeks. The longer an individual waits to seek treatment, symptoms will become more severe and the disease difficult to cure. For more information on Lyme disease, please visit the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website: www.cdc.gov/Lyme/ .

The best way to prevent tick infestations around the home is by keeping lawns mowed (height of 3 inches or less) and removing high grass, weeds, leaf litter, and undergrowth near the home. Property that borders woodlots typically presents the most risk, with tick numbers generally declining as you move farther from the woods. Ticks require high humidity to survive and do not do well on lawns or fields that are routinely exposed to direct sunlight. Wild animals (deer, birds, mice) and pets can transport ticks long distances and into your yard or home. Chemicals (pesticides) that kill ticks can be applied to your yard as a last resort if large numbers of ticks are present. The critical point is the timing of application to target early life stages (nymphal/larval ticks), usually early June. This can help reduce the number of ticks later in the season. Some of the pesticides that are effective for controlling ticks by homeowners are listed below:

1. Carbaryl (Sevin): A commonly used garden insecticide. Available as a spray or granule for ticks on turf and recreational areas.

2. Cyfluthrin (Tempo, other brands): Labeled for tick control on turf and ornamentals.

3. Deltamethrin (Suspend, DeltaGard G): Available as a spray or granule. Labeled for tick control in residential areas where ticks may be found

4. S-fenvalerate (Zema Lawn Spray): Labeled for tick control on turf and ornamentals.

5. Permethrin (PermaKill 4Week Tick Killer): Labeled for use against ticks on the lawn.

Liquid formulations of pesticides will kill nymphs in spring, larvae in summer and adults in the fall; whereas granular formulations of pesticides are more effective on nymphs that are overwintering in the fall or larvae that are hatching in the early summer.

Remember to practice personal protective measures as well. Wear long sleeves and long pants to prevent ticks from reaching your skin. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pant cuffs into your socks or boots. Use an insect repellent containing DEET on any exposed skin and clothing to repel ticks. Finally, be sure to check your clothing and body carefully for ticks when you’ve been outdoors.

To remove an imbedded tick properly, use a fine forceps and grasp the head as close to the skin as possible, and then apply a steady upward force until the tick is free. If part or all of the mouthparts remain in wound, it can be treated as a sliver. It is not recommended to use petroleum products to remove a tick, squeeze the body or heat tick with a match.

Schmidt is an agent for the NDSU Extension Service.

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