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As weather warms, watch out for ticks

I love when the weather turns warmer, and even though we have recently had a cold snap, this winter has been a pretty warm one. It is getting ready to get even warmer, and with these warmer temperatures comes insects — including ticks.

Because the winter was a warmer one, that means more ticks probably survived and since it’s getting warmer, we will see them coming out more now. Even a couple of weeks ago, in the middle of April I found a tick on me after being outdoors in some tall grasses.

According to an article by UK AgNews, the two most common types of ticks in the state of Kentucky are the lone star tick and the American dog tick. That’s lucky for us, because according to Lee Townsend, an Extension Entomologist at the University of Kentucky, the tick that transmits lyme disease is the black legged tick, which is “not known to be established in Kentucky”.

Our chances of lyme disease in Kentucky might be low, but ticks can still make us sick. The lone star tick can carry erlichiosis, a bacterial disease that causes flu-like symptoms. While only a small percentage of lone star ticks carry erlichiosis, it’s best not to chance it at all.

What can you do to help prevent having ticks on you? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) you should “walk in the center of trails and avoid walking through tall bushes or other vegetation.” I think that’s good advice even if you aren’t worried about ticks, because you should always stay on the trail to make sure you aren’t disturbing the nature around you.

Other things you can do are:

  • wear insect repellent;
  • wear light colors so ticks can be easily seen;
  • tuck your pants into your socks and tuck your shirt into your pants to prevent ticks from getting to your skin;
  • check your body for ticks, paying special attention to backs of your knees, under your arms, around your waist and around your ears;
  • take a shower after being in areas where you may have picked up ticks; and
  • wash your clothes as soon as you can — if you cannot wash your clothes right away, make sure to put them in a zipped plastic bag until you can.

Ticks like shaded humid areas. If you have trouble with ticks in your yard, there are some thing you can to do help keep them at bay. You can keep your grass cut short and get rid of any brush that you might have around your yard. You can also “place a 3-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment,” according to the CDC. “This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.”

You can also keep trash out of your yard and keep trash cans sealed. Ticks like to feed on animals like deer, raccoons and rodents, so if you don’t have good habitat for those animals and you keep your grass cut short and your leaves raked up, you hopefully won’t have any issues with ticks.

If you have any pets, make sure to give them tick medicine so they are not carrying around ticks. Also make sure you are checking your furry friends for ticks as well.

If you find a tick on you and it has already bitten you, it’s important to remove it correctly. Removing it incorrectly can result in not removing all of the tick.

You want to make sure you use fine-tipped tweezers, then you want to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull upwards with an even steady pressure. After you have removed the tick, you should clean the area. The longer the tick has been there, the harder it will be to remove. The best thing to do is try to prevent ticks in the first place.

By tucking in your pants and shirt, applying bug spray and staying on the trail, you can hopefully stay tick-free.

Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week

I was at a birding hike at the Central Kentucky Wildlife Refuge this weekend when I learned that indigo buntings are not blue. While they look blue, they are actually black. Their feathers diffract light, making the bird appear blue, even though the bird has no blue pigment in its feathers.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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