Greg Bowman

This will not be a glamorous article, but one that is important for the spring and summer season. This is a great time for outdoor activities. There has been a lot of sunshine and the temperatures for the most part have been mild. You may be planning several cookouts, hiking or camping trips, may plan on getting your landscape in shape or may be spending a lot of time at the ballpark. All of these activities could put you in a situation to come in contact with ticks.

Ticks can be listed as one of the most important groups of arthropods in Georgia. Their importance is based on their ability to transmit diseases to humans. Two of the more common diseases that can be transmitted by ticks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease. Other than disease transmission, ticks can cause infection if you remove an attached tick from your skin improperly due to leaving the tick mouthpart in the skin causing a reaction.

In addition, people tend to stay away from recreational areas that have high tick populations so potentially great spots go unused. Plus, it can cost a good deal of money to control ticks on your property or items such as your pets.

For starters, we need to talk about the more common ticks that can bite and be more of a problem for people in Georgia. Those ticks are the Lone Star tick, American dog tick and the black-legged tick. I would suggest doing an image search which may help you in tick identification of these three particular tick species.

The life cycle of these three kinds of ticks are very similar. The key is for each stage of the life cycle, the tick must have a blood meal in order for the tick to develop into an adult and lay eggs for the next generation. There are male and female ticks. The female tick can lay up to 6,000 eggs in a mass. Environmental conditions will determine when eggs hatch, but it can be in as early as two weeks up to several months. I will not go into more detail on the life cycle except to say that ticks need areas high in moisture for survival. They like bottomland with high humidity and thick vegetation and a good deer population that can be hosts. Our drought has not been good for the ticks because they do not survive well in hot and dry weather conditions when grass or other vegetation is short.

Due to their ability to transmit disease, you need to protect yourself from ticks in the outdoors. The first tip in protection is to stay in areas where the vegetation is open or at least kept below the ankle in height. For campers and hikers, that may not be reasonable. If you find yourself in more highly tick-populated areas, avoid vegetation that can brush your body, especially the legs. Also, if you know you are going to be in a highly tick-populated area, wear long pants. Tuck the pant leg into your socks and tuck your shirt under your belt. I know this is not very fashionable, but it can help in tick detection. When a tick gets on your clothing, tucking your shirt will keep the tick from getting under your clothing and as the tick moves up towards the head, you should be able to visually see the tick easier.

You can also use a tick repellent when in tick areas. Repellents containing DEET are available in many brands and formulations. Liquid formulations of DEET can be used to according to production label for safety. There are DEET aerosols that can be sprayed on clothing and sometimes skin if the label allows. There are also Permanone products on the market that can not only repel, but also kill the ticks. If you choose to go the repellent route, you need to read the product label of each item you may potentially use for proper use and safety and any warnings or limitations with children.

If you know you have been in a tick populated area, you need to inspect yourself for ticks at least two times per day. Finding an attached tick sooner is better than later in limiting the chance of getting a transmitted disease.

There is also the importance of correct removal of an attached tick. You need to remove a tick with either forceps, cloth or paper wrapped around the tick as near the point of attachment as possible. When removing, use a firm, steady pull. Do not jerk or twist the tick because you do not want to break-off the tick mouthpart in the skin. This can lead to infection. Do not remove the embedded tick with your unprotected hand. You need to apply a disinfectant to the site immediately after removing the tick. You then need to wash your hands with hot and soapy water.

If you have pets, you need to have them on a recommended tick management program, too. Keep the lawn grass mowed to proper heights and you may have to use lawn approved pesticides to reduce tick numbers also.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email gbowman@uga.edu.