Ticks

Ticks vary in color by species. Adult ticks are 1/8- to 5/8-inch long if engorged with blood, nymphal (or immature) ticks are less than 1/16-inch. Common ticks in Virginia are Blacklegged ticks, also called deer ticks, Lone star Ticks and Dog ticks. Deer ticks spread Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis. Lone star ticks and dog ticks spread ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Lone star tick bites can also lead to developing the red meat allergy.

Habitat

Many people think ticks are only present in the woods. However, ticks can be found in many areas.

  • Where woods/fields meet lawn
  • Wooded areas
  • Tall brush/grass
  • Under leaves*
  • Very small numbers on cut/raked lawns or sports fields
  • Under ground cover (plants) in yard *
  • Around stone walls and woodpiles where mice & other small mammals live

*under plants/leaves to prevent dehydration

Diet

All females and males of most species feed on blood of mammals, birds and reptiles. Ticks require a blood meal at each stage of life in order to grow.

Control

Non-chemical tick control procedures should be implemented along with chemical control methods. Keeping grass and weeds cut short in tick infested areas increases tick desiccation during hot weather, discourages alternative hosts and lessens the amount of plant material which may need a pesticide application to kill ticks. Treatments may be necessary in areas of the yard where ticks are found.

Follow these tips when working or walking in areas potentially inhabited by ticks:

  • Wear light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Use tick repellent applied to clothing.
  • Carefully inspect your body after leaving infested areas.
  • Protect pets by preventing them from going into tick-infested areas or use tick treatment products.
  • Inspect pets carefully for ticks after walking them in wooded areas or fields.

To remove a tick embedded in your skin, do not grasp it by the abdomen and pull. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick by the head next to the skin and slowly pull backwards. Working slowly permits the tick to withdraw its mouth parts so they do not detach and remain in the skin and become infected. Once the tick has been removed, disinfect the bite site with alcohol or apply an antibiotic cream. If Lyme disease is prevalent in your community, save the tick in case it’s carrying the germ that may cause this illness and take it to a public health laboratory for analysis.

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