Protecting your home and community

Don’t Get Ticked Off This Summer!



Squirrel Tick (Ixodes marxi)

Engorged Squirrel Tick (Ixodes marxi)

Tick-borne diseases are like the biblical plagues. Summertime is supposed to be a time when you can feel comfortable wearing shorts and sandals, take a walk in the woods, hike up mountains, sit outside on the grass, mow the lawn, scratch your dog under the oak tree. For those of us who live in northern climates, it’s especially welcome.

We wait all winter and, (depending on how far north!) much of spring for the opportunity to go out without a jacket, a coat, and boots!


Keep calm and carry garlic poster

Permethrin and DEET are better choices for avoiding tick-borne disease

If only we could keep them away, like the two-legged bloodsuckers in popular literature, by walking in the sunlight, by putting a necklace of garlic around our necks, by making the sign of a cross, or sprinkling holy water around us, life would be safer, and we wouldn’t have to think about ticks. DEET and permethrin (available at outdoors stores and online), are more effective alternatives. Clothing can be doused with permethrin and will continue to be effective through several washings.



It’s important that we think about them, and take steps that will keep us safe from the diseases ticks carry.


Nasty ticks


According to Infectious Disease News, the numbers of certain tick-borne diseases in the U.S. reported to the CDC have risen within the past decade.

In the past 10 years, the following tick-borne diseases have evolved as the top five reported in the United States: Lyme disease (about 35,000 reported cases yearly); Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF; about 2,500 cases reported yearly); ehrlichiosis and anaplasmosis (about 1,000 cases per year each); and babesiosis (about 250 cases reported yearly), according to Lyle R. Petersen, MD, MPH, director of the division of vector-borne diseases at the CDC in Fort Collins, Colo., and a member of the Infectious Disease News Editorial Board.

“They’re all becoming much more common,” Petersen told Infectious Disease News. “The incidence of each has increased in recent decades and particularly during the last 10 years. Lyme disease, babesiosis and anaplasmosis all have the same vector, Ixodes scapularis [the blacklegged tick], which would explain why they’re all going up in tandem.” 



Here’s a primer on the different ticks, the diseases they carry, and most important, tips on how to keep safe this tick season. The squeamish might want to limit their exposure to the following information to geographic regions where they’re likely to be exposed.

The American Dog Tick

American dog tick

American Dog Tick

The American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is the most commonly identified species responsible for transmitting Rickettsia rickettsii, which causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever in humans. The American dog tick can also transmit tularemia. This tick is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and also occurs in limited areas on the Pacific Coast. D. variabilis larvae and nymphs feed on small rodents. Dogs and medium-sized mammals are the preferred hosts of adult D. variabilis, although it feeds readily on other large mammals, including humans.

Map of theApproximate Distribution of The American Dog Tick

Approximate Distribution of The American Dog Tick


The Blacklegged Tick

Blacklegged tick

Blacklegged Tick

The blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), commonly known as a “deer tick”, can transmit the organisms responsible for anaplasmosisbabesiosis, and Lyme disease. This tick is widely distributed in the northeastern and upper midwestern United States. I. scapularis larvae and nymphs feed on small mammals and birds, while adults feed on larger mammals and will bite humans on occasion. It is important to note that the pathogen that causes Lyme disease is maintained by wild rodent and other small mammal reservoirs, and is not transmitted everywhere that the blacklegged tick lives. In some regions, particularly in the southern U.S., the tick has very different feeding habits that make it an unlikely vector in the spread of human disease. Ixodes scapularis is also a vector for Powassan (POW) virus.

Map showing the Approximate Distribution of The Blacklegged Tick

Approximate Distribution of The Blacklegged Tick


The Brown Dog Tick

Brown dog tick

Brown dog tick

The brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) has recently been identified as a reservoir of R. rickettsii, causing Rocky Mountain spotted fever, in the southwestern U.S. and along the U.S-Mexico border. Brown dog ticks are found throughout the U.S. and the world. Dogs are the primary host for the brown dog tick for each of its life stages, although the tick may also bite humans or other mammals.

Map of the Approximate Distribution of The Brown Dog Tick

Approximate Distribution of The Brown Dog Tick


The Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast Tick

The Gulf Coast tick (Amblyomma maculatum) in coastal areas of the United States along the Atlantic coast and the Gulf of Mexico. The Gulf Coast tick can transmit Rickettsia parkeri rickettsiosis, a form of spotted fever. A. maculatum larvae and nymphs feed on birds and small rodents, while adult ticks feed on deer and other wildlife. Adult ticks have been associated with transmission of R. parkeri to humans.

Map of Approximate Distribution of the Gulf Coast Tick

Approximate Distribution of the Gulf Coast Tick


The Lone Star Tick 

The Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star Tick

The Lone Star tick (Amblyomma americanum) transmits Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii, causing human ehrlichiosistularemia, and STARI. The lone star tick is primarily found in the southeastern and eastern United States. White-tailed deer are a major host of lone star ticks and appear to represent one natural reservoir for E. chaffeensisA. americanum larvae and nymphs feed on birds and deer. Both nymphal and adult ticks may be associated with the transmission of pathogens to humans.

Map showing Approximate Distribution of the Lone Star Tick

Approximate Distribution of the Lone Star Tick


Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Rocky Mountain wood tick (Dermacentor andersoni) can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia to humans. This tick is found in the Rocky Mountain states. Adult ticks feed primarily on large mammals. Larvae and nymphs feed on small rodents. Adult ticks are primarily associated with pathogen transmission to humans.

Map showing Approximate Distribution of the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

Approximate Distribution of the Rocky Mountain Wood Tick

The Western Blacklegged Tick

Western Blacklegged Tick

Western Blacklegged Tick

The Western Blacklegged tick (Ixodes pacificus) can transmit the organisms responsible for causing anaplasmosis and Lyme disease in humans. Wild rodents and other mammals are likely reservoirs of these pathogens. This tick is distributed along the Pacific coast of the United States. Larvae and nymphs feed on birds and small rodents, while adult ticks feed on deer and other mammals.

Both adult and nymphal ticks are known to transmit disease to humans.

Map showing Approximate Distribution of the Western Blacklegged Tick

Approximate Distribution of the Western Blacklegged Tick


Woodchuck Ticks and Squirrel Ticks

Woodchuck Tick (Ixodes cookei)

Woodchuck Tick (Ixodes cookei)

Squirrel Tick (Ixodes marxi)

Squirrel Tick (Ixodes marxi)

Woodchuck ticks (Ixodes cookei), Squirrel tick (Ixodes marxi), and Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are known vectors of the Powassan virus, a nasty virus can cause encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and meningitis (inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms can include fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, speech difficulties, and seizures.


Map of Powassan (POW) Infections by State

Powassan (POW) Infections by State


Preventing Tick-borne Illness

Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks – Humans

  • Avoid wooded and bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
  • Walk in the center of trails.

Repel Ticks with DEET or Permethrin

  • Use repellents that contain 20 to 30% DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions. Parents should apply this product to their children, avoiding hands, eyes, and mouth.
  • Use products that contain permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents with products containing 0.5% permethrin. It remains protective through several washings. Pre-treated clothing is available and may be protective longer.
  • Other repellents registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) may be found at

Find and Remove Ticks from Your Body

A picture of a person looking at themselves while on the toilet, checking for ticks

Check under the belt for ticks

  • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
  • Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas.
  • Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
A photo of a tick-infested dog

Check your pets

  • Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
  • Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)


Preventing Ticks on Your Pets

Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tickborne diseases. Vaccines are not available for all the tickborne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home. For these reasons, it’s important to use a tick preventive product on your dog.

Tick bites on dogs may be hard to detect. Signs of tickborne disease may not appear for 7-21 days or longer after a tick bite, so watch your dog closely for changes in behavior or appetite if you suspect that your pet has been bitten by a tick.

To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets:

  • Check your pets for ticks daily, especially after they spend time outdoors.
  • If you find a tick on your dog, remove it right away.
  • Ask your veterinarian to conduct a tick check at each exam.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about tickborne diseases in your area.
  • Reduce tick habitat in your yard.
  • Talk with your veterinarian about using tick preventives on your pet.

Note: Cats are extremely sensitive to a variety of chemicals. Do not apply any insect acaricides or repellents to your cats without first consulting your veterinarian!

Kill Ticks on Dogs

A pesticide product that kills ticks is known as an acaricide. Acaricides that can be used on dogs include dusts, impregnated collars, sprays, or topical treatments. Some acaricides kill the tick on contact. Others may be absorbed into the bloodstream of a dog and kill ticks that attach and feed.


  • Helps to reduce the number of ticks in the environment
  • Prevents tickborne disease


  • Tick bites can cause a painful wound and may become infected.
  • When bitten, a dog may become infected with a number of diseases. This depends on the type of tick, which diseases it is carrying (if any), and how quickly a product kills the feeding tick.

Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients):

  • Fipronil
  • Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)
  • Amitraz

Repel Ticks on Dogs

A repellent product may prevent the tick from coming into contact with an animal at all or have anti-feeding effects once the tick comes into contact with the chemical, thus preventing a bite.


  • Prevents bite wounds and possible resulting infections
  • Prevents tickborne disease


  • Will not reduce the number of ticks in the environment (doesn’t kill ticks)

Examples of topically applied products (active ingredients):

  • Pyrethroids (permethrin, etc.)


Preventing Ticks in the Yard

Apply Pesticides Outdoors to Control Ticks

No tick zonePesticides for ticks, known as acaricides, can reduce the number of ticks in your yard. These benefits have been best-studied for Ixodes scapularis (the black-legged tick), and include:

  • Consistent and timely pest control
  • Easy to apply
  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Safe if applied according to the label

Only small amounts of acaricide applied at the right time of year are necessary. Application should focus on control of nymphal I. scapularis ticks, the stage most likely to transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis, by spraying once in May or early June. An October application of acaricide may be used to control adult blacklegged ticks, however, they less commonly transmit disease. The use and timing of acaricides to control other ticks of public health concern is less well studied, but may still be helpful.

If you have health concerns about applying acaricides:

  • Check with local health or agricultural officials about the best time to apply acaricide in your area.
  • Identify rules and regulations related to pesticide application on residential properties (Environmental Protection Agency and your state determine the availability of pesticides).
  • Consider using a professional pesticide company to apply pesticides at your home.

Create a Tick-safe Zone to Reduce Ticks in the Yard

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has developed a comprehensive Tick Management Handbook Adobe PDF file [PDF – 8.53 MB]External Web Site Icon for preventing tick bites. Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:

  • Remove leaf litter.
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
  • Mow the lawn frequently.
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
  • Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
  • Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.

Removing Ticks


A photo of removing a tick using tweezers

Be sure to remove the entire head

If you find a tick attached to your skin, there’s no need to panic. There are several tick removal devices on the market, but a plain set of fine-tipped tweezers will remove a tick quite effectively.

How to remove a tick

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.
  2. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  3. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
  4. Watch a video of the process here.

Avoid folklore remedies such as “painting” the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible–not waiting for it to detach.

For information about symptoms of tickborne illness go to the CDC’s site here.

For more information about the lifecycle of hard ticks that spread disease, the CDC site here.The CDC also publishes a reference manual about ticks for health care providers.

Yuck face





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