Just when you thought this harsh winter would last forever, it seems like spring is finally here to stay. The sun is out, the birds are back, and the atmosphere is bright! But enjoying this beautiful weather unfortunately means we’ll also experience some not-so-glamorous parts of spring. That’s right. Ticks are back. They’re already out and about and ready to find their next meal … you or your pets.
Minnesota has about a dozen different types of ticks crawling around, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, but the most common are the American dog tick (aka wood tick), blacklegged tick (aka deer tick), and the lone star tick.
Adult ticks venture out just after the snow melts, which means – as you may have already noticed – they’re out in force right now. They’ll be the most active May through June. Activity tapers off after that until they catch a second wind and peak in activity during the fall. Once the temperature drops below freezing or snow begins falling, they begin to disappear. It’s a vicious cycle we Minnesotans are destined to repeat.
Here are some other interesting facts to consider as you figure out how to deal with these pests:
- Ticks cannot jump or fly. Their best method for getting onto you is climbing onto a leaf or blade of grass, hanging on with their back legs, and reaching out with their front legs. Then they wait. When a person or an animal brushes by, they quickly grab on and climb aboard. Sometimes they’ll start feeding right away, but other times, they’ll wander around to find the best spot for dinner.
- Ticks are incredibly good at knowing when you’re close by. Sometimes, all it takes is your shadow to alert a tick to your presence. They can also detect potential hosts from your breath, body odor, body heat, vibrations and moisture.
- To add another level to the “ick” factor, at least for those who have arachnophobia, ticks are actually arachnids, not insects. They are closely related to spiders and scorpions. This is evident by their eight legs and absence of antennae.
- Ticks are not born carrying diseases. They obtain them by feeding on a host that has the disease and can then pass it to an unaffected individual. However, the good news is they can only transmit the disease after several hours of feeding. That means if you take proper precautions when spending time outside, you can find and kill the tick before it can spread the disease. (Here’s what the CDC recommends for preventing tick bites.)
- Different types of ticks can spread different diseases. In fact, many of the tick species in Minnesota do not spread diseases. The ones that do include deer ticks spreading Lyme disease and wood ticks spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
If you do find a tick that has attached to your skin, don’t panic. Simply remove the tick as soon as you can. Tweezers are one of the most effective tools for this job.
- Grab the tick with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible.
- Pull upward firmly and evenly rather than yanking or twisting, which can break the tick’s mouth and leave parts behind in your skin.
- Once the tick is removed, wash your hands and the bite area.
- Kill the tick by wrapping it in tape, flushing it down the toilet or placing it in alcohol.
It’s important to note that if a rash or fever develop within a few weeks of removing a tick, you should visit your provider.