Spring and early summer provide lots of opportunities to get out and explore the woods and surrounding areas.
With the warmer weather there are lots of activities that beckon a lot of us to get outside to work in the yard or get out for some other forms of recreation. It's also the time of year when the bugs seem to be at their worst.
The skeeters are starting to hatch and the blackflies have been out and feeding for a while now.
Another insect that seems to be increasingly common in the past few years are ticks.
Ticks are arachnids that attach themselves to a host and feed on blood. Their host can be anything from birds, mammals, and occasionally reptiles. This includes both people and pets.
They find their host by situating themselves in areas where a potential host may be present or passing through, such as game trails, woodlands, tall grass, or even yards. They then climb onto a blade of grass, leaf, or twig and wait with outstretched legs until a host passes by. This is known as "questing."
Once a host passes by, they latch on with their outstretched legs and catch a ride. After it latches onto the host, the tick will generally move around until they find a suitable place to feed. It may take the tick several hours to finally grasp on, make a cut, and insert its feeding tube before it actually starts to take in blood.
A tick goes through three stages of development during its life cycle. Once it hatches it is in the larval stage, then nymph stage, and finally adult stage where they eventually mate and the female will lay eggs. This requires at least one feeding before progressing to the next stage. This may take up to 3 years to complete if they are able to find a host and survive.
The three most common ticks encountered here are the American Dog tick, commonly called a wood tick, the Black Legged tick, also known as a deer tick, and the Lone Star tick.
The Black Legged tick is significantly smaller than the other two and is also the one known to carry Lyme disease. The American Dog tick and the Lone Star tick rarely carry Lyme disease but have been known to cause both Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Tularemia.
If you find a tick attached to you or your pet, the recommended method for removing them is to grasp the head with a set of tweezers and slowly and gently pull it away till it becomes dislodged.
Try not to twist or jerk it away as this can cause the legs or feeding tube to break off on the skin and may lead to higher risk of infection. It is not recommended to use a burning match or petroleum jelly to get them off. If you are concerned about getting proper identification you should keep the tick in alcohol to preserve it.
If you notice any health issues with you or your pet after a tick encounter, including but not limited to, a bulls-eye rash, excessive swelling, fever or nausea, you should consult a health care provider and inform them that you have had exposure to a tick.