Ticks are a highly disliked organism, and for pretty good reason! Not only do they look creepy, but they are small enough to go unnoticed and can be hosts to dangerous diseases. With summer almost upon us, now is the time when it is even more important to be aware of the dangers ticks pose, and what you can do to help prevent them.
Ticks are not technically insects – they are actually arachnids, like spiders and scorpions. This means that they have eight legs, and only two body segments, compared to the six legs and three body segments of regular insects. Ticks are also parasites, meaning that they feed on a host animal. These animals can be anything from snakes and frogs to birds to squirrels, mice, deer, and even humans and our household pets. Typically these arachnids prefer warmer, humid climates, which means that here in Wisconsin, exposure is most likely to happen in late spring through early fall.
Tick bites can be serious, both for you and your household pets, so it is important to do what you can to prevent them. Contrary to popular belief, these bites don’t just happen after walking through the woods – they can happen after walking your dog or walking through your yard. Ticks typically inhabit areas on the edge of wooded spaces, where brush, tall grass, and leaf litter is high but they have some cover from the sun or intense weather. Activities like gardening, hunting, and even golfing can lead to increased exposure to these eight-legged creatures.
Prevention of these arachnids isn’t always straightforward, but there are a few steps that can be taken to help reduce the chance of exposure.
- Make sure any and all household pests are treated to prevent ticks. Tick-prevention medication is fairly easy to obtain for most pets and is often tied in with flea-prevention, which makes it even more valuable.
- Use insect repellent! This one seems pretty simple, but can actually be incredibly beneficial. When heading outside, be sure to spray your feet and legs, or pants and shoes, to help deter these insects from catching hold of you to begin with. Insect repellents should be EPA-approved, with DEET one of the top ingredients.
- Tied in with the previous tip, try to wear covered shoes and long pants when possible. While this won’t prevent ticks from latching onto your clothing, there is an additional layer and it will take ticks longer to find a place to attach themselves.
- Check! After coming back indoors, be sure to check all clothing pets, and yourself for ticks. Ticks like covered areas, such as under the arms, the back of your knees, in your hair, and even in your belly button! Be sure to check your body thoroughly using a mirror if needed.
- If possible, wash or dry clothing on high heat to kill any ticks that may have stowed away. Showering can also help wash off any ticks not yet embedded, so it is recommended to shower within two hours of outside exposure (plus, this can give you a perfect opportunity to check yourself).
- When it comes to exposure in your yard, the easiest things to do are to clear away leaf litter, brush, trash or debris from your yard, mow the lawn frequently, and to install fences to keep unwanted animals such as deer from approaching your home. Pesticide application can also help reduce the tick population around your home.