If you spend any time outdoors, it’s a good idea to be mindful of ticks. With just one bite, this tiny parasite can significantly affect a person or pet’s health and quality of life: diseases spread by ticks can cause serious illness or even death.
It’s tick season, and we want you to stay safe. Today, we’re discussing the ticks common to Ohio, the diseases spread by ticks, and the ways that you can prevent tick bites and infestation. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about ticks!
Ticks Common in Ohio
There are four ticks that can be found in Ohio: the American dog tick, the blacklegged tick, the brown dog tick, and the lone star tick. While the appearance of each tick varies slightly, every adult tick has six legs and is flat and oval-shaped. Let’s look at each of these ticks more in depth.
American Dog Tick
The American dog tick is the most common tick in the state. It’s also the largest tick in Ohio, at about 3/16 of an inch long as an adult. After feeding, a female tick can reach 5/8 of an inch long. It is brown in color with light grey on its back. This type of tick is often found in grassy areas near roads and paths and in woody or shrubby habitats. It is active in the spring and summer but most active from April to July. During this time, it will feed on just about any small to large-sized mammal, including rodents, raccoons, dogs, and humans. The American dog tick is responsible for spreading several diseases: Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. The tick’s saliva has also been known to cause tick paralysis in humans and dogs.
The blacklegged tick, though not as common as the American dog tick, has become increasingly more common since 2010. This tick is about 1/16 of an inch long and dark brown in color as an adult. Female adult ticks have a rear that is red or orange in color. Blacklegged ticks are generally seen in or near forested areas and are active year-round. Adult ticks will feed on large mammals—particularly white-tailed deer. For this reason, you might have heard them called “deer ticks.” Blacklegged (deer) ticks are the only carrier of Lyme disease in the midwest. They are also capable of spreading human granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesiosis. Most worryingly, it is possible for one blacklegged tick to be infected with (then spread) multiple diseases at once.
Lone Star Tick
The lone star tick is most common to Cincinnati and elsewhere in southern Ohio. That said, they have spread throughout the rest of the state after hitching a ride on migratory birds. An adult tick of this type is about 3/16 of an inch long and brown, with a silver spot on its back. (This spot is actually where the name “lone star” comes from—not from the state of Texas!) Lone star ticks prefer shady areas and can be found in shaded grassy, shrubby habitats. They are active during the warmer months. This kind of tick can transmit human monocytic ehrlichiosis, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia, and Q-fever.
Brown Dog Tick
Brown dog ticks are fortunately uncommon in Ohio; however, they are notable in that they are the only tick able to establish themselves inside homes and kennels. At the adult stage, this tick is about 1/8 of an inch long and reddish-brown. Once fed, however, a female tick may increase to 1/2 inch in size and appear bluish-gray. Unlike the other ticks common to Ohio, brown dog ticks aren’t often found in woody outdoor areas. Instead, they thrive indoors, where it’s warm and dry. Still, they can be seen in grassy areas near homes and kennels. The brown dog tick prefers dogs, and it rarely bites humans. It is responsible for transmitting several diseases to dogs, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis, canine babesiosis, canine bartonellosis, and canine hepatozoonosis.
How to Prevent Tick Bites
There are a number of different ways that you can prevent tick bites (or even—gulp—an infestation) this summer. Let’s look at a few of them.
Avoid Tick Habitats
As you might expect, the best way to avoid ticks is to avoid their habitats. You’ll encounter ticks most often in wooded or grassy areas—the kind of places you go to hike and camp, for example. If you are in these areas, at least stick to the center of trails and avoid high grass. If you are particularly worried about ticks, consider postponing your camping or hiking trip until the colder months (or see below).
Wear Protective Clothing
Sometimes, it just isn’t possible to completely avoid ticks. While they’re most common when hiking or camping, ticks can also be seen while you’re gardening or walking your dog. Many people find ticks in their own backyard! When outdoors, consider wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into your socks. This will help keep ticks from biting you. When you come indoors, check your clothes for ticks. To be safe, you can also throw your clothes in the washing machine on hot and dry them on hot to kill any ticks. It’s also a good idea to treat your clothes and other gear (like backpacks, blankets, tents, etc.) with a product that contains 0.5 percent permethrin. Permethrin is an insecticide that has been shown to reduce the incidence of tick bites. You can also use insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD), or 2-undecanone. These ingredients are safe for people to use but should not be used on children under the age of three.
Shower after Being Outdoors
If you’ve spent a significant amount of time outdoors—particularly if you’ve been in tick-infested areas—we recommend showering as soon as you come inside. After taking off and washing your clothing, perform a full-body inspection for ticks. Use a mirror to see all parts of your body. If a tick is found, remove it immediately. Be sure to shower within two hours, if possible. According to the CDC, showering within this time frame has been shown to reduce your risk of Lyme disease. At the very least, showering will wash off any unattached ticks.
Check Your Pets
If you have pets—such as dogs or cats—that spend time outdoors, it’s important to check them for ticks. Ticks can often be found on the scalp, the ears, the back of the neck, the back, and even between the toes. You should check your pets daily during tick season and regularly in the colder months. We also recommend talking to your veterinarian about preventative options for your pet, whether that’s a tick collar, topical treatment, or tick vaccination.
Treat Your Yard
If your yard has grass, shrubs, and trees, there’s a good chance that ticks will move in. To make your backyard less habitable for ticks, perform regular law maintenance. Mow frequently, pick up debris and leaf piles, and remove tall weeds and brush. Keeping an orderly yard will also discourage tick-carrying wildlife from staying in your yard.
Get Rid of Other Pests
As we discussed above, ticks will feed on a variety of mammals large and small. By hitching a ride on these animals, they can find their way to your backyard. A good tick-prevention plan will address other pests that show up near your home, like raccoons and rodents. Consider taking steps like securing all trash and filling in cracks into your home to discourage rodents from moving in. If you have a garden, consider planting plants that don’t attract deer.
Call Us for Professional Help
We hope these ticks help you and your pets stay tick-free and safe this summer! If you are bitten by a tick and experience symptoms of illness (like fever, chills, or rash), we encourage you to seek help from a medical professional immediately. If you have questions about ticks or would like more information about pest removal, we’d be happy to help. Please feel free to call us today.
Contact Scherzinger Pest Control, a trusted pest control company in the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky areas, including Dayton, OH, and now Columbus, OH. We’ve been pioneers, engineering new standards for ways of eliminating and controlling bugs and pests. Contact us by phone at 1-877-748-9888 or through our website, Facebook, or Twitter.