Ticks, Help

Ick, it’s a tick.

See how tiny tick nymphs can be? This is an excerpt from Dr. Kirby Stafford, linked to the PDF from CAES.

The following information is from the Tick Management Handbook for homeowners, pest control operators, and public health officials for the prevention of tick-associated disease by Kirby C. Stafford III, Ph.D., Vice Director, Chief Entomologist, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES), New Haven.

Arm yourself with information from a scientist who has amassed information about the life cycle of many different ticks (including exotic species, imported by accident) and the many different strains of tick-borne diseases. The online PDF is free. For a page of other helpful tick-related publication available, here is the link to the CAES page.

The mission of The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is to “develop, advance, and disseminate scientific knowledge, improve agricultural productivity and environmental quality, protect plants, and enhance human health and well-being through research for the benefit of Connecticut residents and the nation.”

Tick Bite Prevention Checking for ticks and prompt removal of attached ticks is probably the most important and effective method of preventing infection.

Important points (complete list in PDF report) to consider in tick bite prevention and checking for ticks include:

• Nymphal blacklegged ticks are very small (about the size of a pinhead), difficult to spot, and are active during the late spring and summer months when human outdoor activity is greatest. The majority (about 75%) of Lyme disease cases are associated with activities (play, yard or garden work) around the home.

• Ticks do not jump, fly or drop from trees, but grasp passing hosts from the leaf litter, tips of grass, etc. Most ticks are probably picked up on the lower legs and then crawl up the body seeking a place to feed. Adult ticks will, however, seek a host (i.e., deer) in the shrub layer several feet above the ground, about or above the height of children.

• Children 5-13 years of age are particularly at risk for tick bites and Lyme disease (due to playing outdoors).

Ticks under scrutiny at the CAES microscopes. Get information from science to keep your family and pets well.

• Wear light-colored clothing with long pants tucked into socks to make ticks easier to detect and keep them on the outside of the clothes. Unfortunately, surveys show the majority of individuals never tuck their pants into their socks when entering tick-infested areas. It is unclear just how effective this prevention measure is without the addition of a repellent. Larval and nymphal ticks may penetrate a coarse weave sock. Do not wear open-toed shoes or sandals.

A pen at left is shown for scale as these containers hold larval and nymphal deer ticks – and they are tiny, tiny, tiny. As seen at the CAES Plant Science Day. CB/MDP photo

• DEET or permethrin-based mosquito and tick repellents may be used, which can substantially increase the level of protection (see section on repellents). This approach may be particularly useful when working in the yard, clearing leaves, and doing other landscaping activity with a high risk of tick exposure. A separate set of work or gardening clothes can be set aside for use with the permethrin-based clothing tick repellents.

• Carefully inspect the entire body and remove any attached ticks. Ticks may feed anywhere on the body. Tick bites are usually painless and, consequently, most people will be unaware that they have an attached tick without a careful check.

Also, carefully inspect children and pets. Take notice of the proximity of woodland edge or mixed grassy and brushy areas from public and private recreational areas and playing fields. While ticks are unlikely to be encountered in open fields, children chasing balls off the field or cutting through woods to school may be entering a high-risk tick area.

• Pets can bring ticks into the home, resulting in a tick bite without the person being outdoors. A veterinarian can suggest methods to protect your pets. Engorged blacklegged ticks dropping off a pet will not survive or lay eggs in the house, as the air is generally too dry.

For comprehensive information about ticks and how to best manage your yard to lower exposure potential, visit the site of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.

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The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) at UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources can test the tick for pathogens.

Ticks received at the CVMDL are first examined by trained technicians using a microscope. This identification process determines the species of tick, life stage, and degree of blood engorgement, all of which are factors that may impact transmission of pathogens to the person or animal (the host).

A single tick has the potential to transmit one, two, or even all four of these illnesses simultaneously. Other species of ticks, such as the dog tick (Dermacentor variablis) and Lonestar tick (Amblyomma americanum) can also be tested for different pathogens known to cause illness in humans and/or animals.

These disease-carrying arachnids enjoy moist areas with long grass and will latch onto humans and animals alike. While deer ticks are predominantly known for transmitting Lyme disease (caused by the spirochetal bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi), it can also carry other disease causing agents such as Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Borrelia miyamotoi.

These are the causative agents of Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis and Borrelia miyamotoi disease. If you find a tick, remove it immediately.

Ticks may then be tested for the DNA of pathogens that are known to be transmitted by that tick species. Results are reported within 3-5 business days of receiving the sample, and next business day “rush” testing is available for an additional fee.

How to send in ticks: Send ticks in sealed zip lock bags accompanied by a small square of moist paper towel. More information about the submission form and Do’s and Don’ts of tick testing can be found at http://s.uconn.edu/tickform.

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