New York State IPM Program

October 23, 2019
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Help! I found a tick on me!

Help! I found a tick on me!

The time of the falling leaves has come again. Once more in our morning walk we tread upon carpets of gold and crimson, of brown and bronze, woven by the winds or the rains out of these delicate textures while we slept. – John Burroughs
Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one want to find.

Whether conducting a thorough tick check or just examining the lump behind your knee, this is something no one wants to find.

The time has also come again for blacklegged tick adults to look for their last blood meal to fuel the mating process. (To be specific, it’s time for the adult females to secure that last blood meal. It’s time for the adult males to secure a female.) And it’s time for requests such as this one, “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”

First, let’s be clear that the information we provide about tick-borne diseases is restricted to what pathogens are carried by what tick species and how they are transmitted. It is beyond the scope of our roles as IPM Educators to discuss diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment. (For this information, we refer you to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tickborne Diseases of the United States page.) We will, however, provide you with information you can give your health care professional to help make an informed decision.

Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.

Different tick species host different pathogens. Importantly, ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time.

Tick-borne diseases

The easiest part of the request was what disease pathogens are carried by what ticks. The poster to the right shows what disease pathogens can be transmitted by the three ticks of greatest human concern in NY, the blacklegged tick, dog tick, and lone star tick. You can download and print it out and then go to the next step – identification.

Identifying ticks

Each species, life stage, and, for adults, whether it is a male versus female have different color patterns. The length of the mouthparts vary between ticks. They have festively named festoons which can also help with ID. As ticks are freakishly small, and we are looking at even smaller parts of their body, it is handy to have a magnifying lens, a good smartphone camera and a steady hand, or, better yet, a microscope. Don’t have one? There are options for having someone identify the tick for you. They include:

If you want to give identification a go, the TickEncounter Resource Center has an excellent guide highlighting the scutum, festoons, and life history. Life history? Yes! As temperatures drop, so does the activity of lone star, dog, and the newly discovered Asian longhorned tick, increasing the odds that the attached tick will be a blacklegged tick. And the active blacklegged ticks are most likely to be adults. Life history should only be used as a clue, however. Ticks don’t read the books and every life stage of the blacklegged tick has been found throughout the year.

What’s the risk?

A question you will likely be asked when reporting a tick is, “How long was the tick attached?”. In my honest opinion, this is a rather silly question. Ticks are very, very good at not being noticed. They want to stick around for up to a week feeding. To help deter detection, they release antihistamines and painkillers in their saliva. And, perhaps more importantly, none of us want to admit to ourselves that a tick was feeding on our blood for days. It’s a hard psychological pill to swallow. There is also some question in the medical literature about the time required for transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. Especially if the tick was removed improperly. (We covered safe removal of attached ticks in the blog post It’s tick season. Put away the matches and YouTube video How to remove a tick.) And we know Powassan virus can be transmitted in a matter of minutes. But the question will still likely be asked.

The answer? Take another look at that tick and refer to TickEncounter who has helpfully created charts showing the growth of ticks as they feed.

Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center

Courtesy of The TickEncounter Resource Center

I have found this chart particularly useful when people swear the tick was on them for only a few hours. Having an estimate of the attached time is helpful information for your physician. Take your printed Tick-Borne Diseases and Non-Pathogenic Impacts sheet, circle the identified species, write down the estimated time of attachment, and consult with your health care professional.

Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.

Pictures such as this can be helpful, but for an accurate identification, nothing beats the actual tick.

And now back to the original request: “I was wondering if you could ID this tick that I pulled off of myself and give me any tips on what diseases this variety tends to carry and transmit.”. The submitted picture is included to the right. (You can click on it to make it bigger.) Before reading on, what is your identification?

This looks like an adult blacklegged tick which was attached for 2 to 3 days, which is within the time frame that pathogens carried by the tick could have been transmitted. I recommended bringing in the tick for a more certain identification.

One last question often asked – “Should I get the tick tested?”

We follow the CDC recommendation of not having the tick tested for diagnostic purposes. The reasons include:

  • Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
  • Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
  • If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.

Having said that, the Thangamani Lab in the SUNY Upstate Medical University is investigating the geographic expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases in New York. They are conducting free tick testing for research purposes. Please consider contributing to this citizen science project and visit the website for directions on how to submit your tick.

Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.

Promoting IPM, including monitoring and personal protection, as best management practices for avoiding ticks and tick-borne disease.

And finally…

If you don’t get bitten by a tick, you don’t need to go through this process. Our Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign provides you with the information you need to protect yourself from the risk of tick-borne diseases. Check out How Do I Protect Myself From Ticks? before your next trip outdoors.

Let’s stay safe out there as we enjoy the beautiful fall colors.

June 28, 2019
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Don’t Make Your Own Tick Tubes

Don’t Make Your Own Tick Tubes

“Frugality, I’ve learned, has its own cost, one that sometimes lasts forever.” – Nicholas Sparks

Commercially available “tick tubes” are tubes filled with permethrin-infused cotton. Mice take the cotton to line their nests and are treated for ticks every time they return home. It’s estimated that a typical ¼ acre yard needs six tubes twice a year, with a 12 pack costing ~$45 . Although this cost isn’t excessive, there are many videos and articles on making DIY tick tubes to help people save money. But what is the actual cost?

A dozen tubes covers about a 1/4 acre for $45.

3 Reasons Why Making Your Own Tick Tubes is a Bad Idea:

1) They probably won’t work.

A pesticide product contains inert ingredients that help the active ingredient (in this case, permethrin) perform properly for the uses listed on the product label. The formulation used in commercially available tick tubes is uniquely suited for controlling ticks on mice. Other permethrin formulations are designed for other uses which are specifically listed on the label.

2) You could be putting yourself, others, pets, nontarget animals, and the environment at unacceptable risk.

Tick tubes target ticks attached to field mice. When spending time in the nest, mice expose themselves to the tick-killing products.

Tick tubes target ticks attached to field mice. When spending time in the nest, mice expose themselves to the tick-killing products.

The EPA will register the use of a pesticide only if rigorous safety testing shows it will “pose no unreasonable risks to people or the environment when used according to label directions.” Only those uses listed on a pesticide label have met this standard, and making your own tick tubes is NOT a use listed on the label of any permethrin product. One potential risk: Permethrin is highly toxic to bees. Bumble bees often nest in abandoned mouse burrows, so making your own tick tubes could harm these important wild pollinators.

3) It is against the law.

Because of Reason #2, the first sentence in the Directions for Use section of all permethrin products is “It is a violation of federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” Which, by the way, also means it is against your state’s laws.

Commercially available tick tubes cost more because it takes time and money to develop the right mix of ingredients and conduct the required safety testing to ensure that the product will control ticks without putting people, pollinators, and the environment at risk. DIY tick tubes that pose greater risks while providing poorer control of ticks are hardly a bargain; be sure to use the real thing.

For information on reducing your risk of tick-borne diseases, visit www.dontgettickedny.org.

Dan Wixted, Cornell University Pesticide Management Education Program

Dan Wixted, Cornell University Pesticide Management Education Program

Authors:

  • Dan Wixted, Cornell University Pesticide Management Education Program
  • Joellen Lampman, New York State Integrated Pest Management Program

January 2, 2019
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on IPM Celebrates the New Year With News for You

IPM Celebrates the New Year With News for You

We decided on a new look for our IPM Year in Review—our first-ever calendar. Who doesn’t put calendars to good use? I’ve already noted a couple of dentist appointments in mine.

And for you, dear reader, we offer our calendar sampler—four months, four topics, four new things to learn.

February:

It’s February and shivery cold—and time to pay careful attention to the nooks and crannies so inviting to the critters that call your home theirs. Do you hear varmints scurrying in the basement, the walls, the ceiling? Mice and kin (OK, rats) have taken up lodgings and are way overdue on the rent.

Block their access. Start with a look in the basement. For mice, the entryway need be no larger than a dime; for rats, a quarter. Take it from us: if their heads can fit through, their fat little tummies can squeeze through too. Found a hole? Found several? Get some sealant and fill ’em up.    https://conservesenecacounty.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/mouse.jpg

March:

Ah, March—when winter marches into spring. School kids are antsy to get outside. And us? We’ve got ticks on our mind. Here’s your blacklegged tick, up close and personal. Soon these ticks will be out and about; the health hazards can hardly be overstated.

So practice the drill—how to ID them, dress for the occasion, do tick checks. Planning a hike? Wear light-colored duds (the better to see you with, my dear), pull your socks over your cuffs—and as soon as you’re home, do tick checks. Got pets? Check them too.

Btw, though their common name is “deer tick,” many scientists prefer “blacklegged tick.” We’re speculating here—but could that be because otherwise people will get the mistaken notion they can catch Lyme from deer, which they cannot? Yes, deer are among the movers and shakers in the world of Lyme. But by the time they’ve donated their blood to the cause, mama tick will have dropped off and called it a day.

Regardless: these ticks have a lineage that goes way back. In fact, a fossilized tick was found in a chunk of amber where it dined on mammalian blood some 20 million years ago. It carried babesia—a disease that’s still in action today.

May:

It’s May now; summer is nearly here and the weeds are growing like—well, like weeds. Unperturbed by spray, horseweed and waterhemp are gaining ground, dramatically reducing crop yields. Regaining control over these herbicide-resistant weeds is a major issue for New York’s farmers.

Here’s one approach. With nearly 20 rubbery fingers on each hand and 20-plus hands, this cultivator earns its keep by dislodging, uprooting, and burying weeds while they’re still small. The boxy white contraption with two dark “eyes” and mounted at head height with a cable running toward the cab? That’s a camera, designed to move the cultivator left or right. It’s job? Keeping the cultivator aligned with the crop.

November:

Bed bugs are back, the scourge of small and big towns alike. No, they don’t spread disease. Yes, on some of us they leave itchy red welts—while others have no symptoms at all. But you don’t need to throw all your belongings away, we promise. IPM now offers to ultimate in How To guides: How to Get Bed Bugs Out of Your Belongings.

Your hair dryer and vacuum cleaner will be your steadfast companions in your battle to regain control over your mattresses, shoes, clothes, and electronics. The hair dryer’s gentle heat will flush the little buggers out of hiding; the vacuum cleaner sucks them up. The guide also provides instructions on how to quarantine your belongings long enough to starve them into oblivion. Bed bugs, even during the holidays, are manageable.

Let IPM help you!

Resources:

December 26, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on 2018’s Best of NYS IPM

2018’s Best of NYS IPM

“None of us is as smart as all of us.” –Ken Blanchard

2018 has been quite the year and we have been busy blogging, tweeting, videoing, and Facebooking about it. Here’s a recap of some of our more popular 2018 offerings:

ThinkIPM – our catchall blog and a great way to keep a pulse on what’s happening in New York State IPM.

Our most popular blog post was actually a guest blog by Paul Hetzler, CCE St. Lawrence County, Move Over, Medusa: Pretty? Poisonous! in the Caterpillar Clan. We’re big fans of his writing and this post on a venomous caterpillar caught a lot of your attention as well. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Are you safe now?

Ticks in February?

Ticks in the cold was also a popular topic. And relevant to now! Check out these two blog posts, Ticks don’t care what month it is and Ticks and the freezing weather. Hopefully they both convince you to keep up your daily tick checks.

While visiting our blog, you have also been checking out older posts. Our second most popular post viewed in 2018 was a 2014 post, Identifying Your Pest – with Poop?. There are a lot of budding scatologists out there.

Other IPM Blogs – Besides ThinkIPM, we have more dedicated blogs, and you don’t need to be a specialist to subscribe to them. Here are some of the more popular posts:

The Spotted Wing Drosophila blog has an obvious focus, but the post Spotted lanternfly found in two counties in NY captured the most views.

 

Biocontrol Bytes was begun at the end of 2018 and many of you have been enjoying the updates on the Creating habitat for beneficial insects project.

 

We saw a number of news reports about bed bugs in schools, so we wrote Bed bugs in schools aren’t going away in The ABCs of School and Childcare Pest Management blog. And you read it. We just wish the news reporters and commenters did too.

 

The 2017 NEWA Survey: IPM impact includes such gems as “93% agreed or strongly agreed that NEWA pest forecast information enhances IPM decision-making for their crops”.

 

Gypsy moths on Christmas trees? Check out the Tree Integrated Pest Management blog and see how it’s now a thing in the Gypsy Moth Caterpillars -Scout for them now post.

 

Facebook

When it comes to Facebook, video rules. Our most popular Facebook post was our claymation video, Life Cycle of the Blacklegged Tick (and Lyme Disease Prevention!). And, by the way, this claymation was part of a large Don’t Get Ticked NY campaign launched in 2018!

Our new Spotted Lanternfly video, Have YOU Spotted Lanternfly Egg Masses was just posted, but it has already reached the number two spot. This invasive insect is getting a lot of attention and we need your help to keep track of it in New York.

 

Twitter

We’re not surprised that our most popular Tweet of 2018 was about spotted lanternfly. Follow us on Twitter to keep up with the latest information.

 

 

 

Annual Report

This might be cheating, because it was just released and we have no data to show its popularity, but our 2017-2018 annual report is a 2019 calendar and everyone we have shown it to has been pretty excited.

Here’s a picture of the spotted lanternfly you have been hearing about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, as we raise our glasses to 2018 and look forward to 2019, include keeping up with NYS IPM Program amongst your resolutions.

Happy New Year!

December 4, 2018
by Joellen Lampman
Comments Off on Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

Tick IPM – The Dog Zone

December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ― John Geddes

Winter had an early showing in New York this year. So when the temperature hit 50oF yesterday, I took the opportunity to spend some time outside. And, as I had warned people that follow me and NYS IPM on social media with this great graphic by Matt Frye earlier today, the ticks were out and about. (Side note: follow us at www.facebook.com/NYSIPM and twitter.com/NYSIPM for up-to-date information you can use.)

Now, the ticks weren’t as active as the 70 oF day last February. I had to put in a little more effort to find them. But while tick dragging, I noticed where others regularly go off the beaten track (or, rather, create their own beaten track). We’re going to call this The Dog Zone.

There’s a perfectly good paved path, but the dog print laden path is inches from the woodline.

Let’s face it. Dogs want to stick their noses into interesting places, and there just aren’t that many interesting places on the pavement. So they will take advantage of the length of the leash to get off the pavement and follow the scent trails. And the smells of mice, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons, deer, rabbits (you get the idea), are more likely to be wafting at the edge of the woods than in the short grass. I watched dog walkers leave the pavement themselves to indulge their furry friends. Unfortunately, ticks are more likely to be in those areas.

Talk to your vet about options to protect your pets from ticks and tick-borne diseases.

Typically the dogs are between their walkers and prime tick habitat, but leaving the pavement still puts you more at risk if you are not taking preventative measures. And let’s not forget to protect your dogs too. There are multiple products out there including different topical and oral products as well as collars. These are described in our Tick FAQ under What should I do to protect my pet from ticks?. (Funny story, numerous people have asked me if they could put tick collars around their ankles. Just… no. You can, however, apply permethrin to your own clothing.)

But the really important message here is that ticks are active during the winter. And even if the air temperature is less than 37oF, a protected, sun-exposed area next to a woodline can be significantly warmer. Last week a site we were monitoring had an air temperature of 40oF, but the ground temperature was 50.6oF. So I will end by emphasizing the need to protect yourself from ticks year-round and conduct a tick check EVERY DAY.

For more information on ticks, visit www.dontgettickedny.org.

for “up to the minute” tick news, follow Joellen Lampman on Twitter
https://twitter.com/jnjlampman

 

November 20, 2018
by Debra E. Marvin
Comments Off on New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

New Posters Available from Don’t Get Ticked New York

Many of us have snow or slush on the ground. While this changes tick activity, it doesn’t mean tick and tick-borne disease risk is over.  We’re pleased to provide our newest Tick infographic posters for Farmers, Hunters and Children.  Members of the community IPM team continue to gather all the latest information on tick activity and tick-borne diseases regardless of the season. All thirteen posters are listed below, with direct links to printable PDFs.

Today, we’ll highlight our recommendations for HUNTERS!

This poster, featuring a hunter, shows how to check yourself for ticks, and safely remove a tick.

Part of that effort involves creating resources to help educate New Yorkers, as well as giving talks around the state and taking part in online webinars.

Don’t Get Ticked New York offers thirteen infographic posters.  Along the right side of our webpage https://nysipm.cornell.edu/whats-bugging-you/ticks/, look for TICK INFOGRAPHIC POSTERS which will link you to ECommons and the pdfs for all of our posters. Where? See below!

Here’s the full list as of November 2018, with direct links to the pdfs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 26, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Check 1.2.3.

Tick Check 1.2.3.

Just last week we posted a pretty good rundown on what to do about ticks—and how. So if you need a review, just call up “Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do” and carry on from there. Remember, the basic idea is no matter which life stage they’re at, know how to protect yourself. Because you can’t count on feeling them crawling on you.

And speaking of life cycles—OK, so the blacklegged tick’s larvae have finished, the nymphs are mostly dormant right now, and the adults have yet to strut their stuff. But that’s no reason to let down your guard. If you’ve been following our posts, you know that there’s a new tick in town (and if you’re following the news, another waiting in the wings.) Their life-cycles can be different. Be watchful!

So here’s what you do:

Two years. Yup. Ticks know how to make good use of their time.

Steer clear of hitchhikers. Ticks don’t survive long in most homes because of low humidity, but still—you’re safest if you put your clothes in a clothes dryer and run it on high heat for 20 minutes. The tumbling action of the dryer and the high heat kill ticks and similar critters.

Wear tick-killing clothing. Information on proper application of permethrin can be found on our post “Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk.” Also consider buying pretreated cloths or sending your outdoor socks, pants, and shirts for professional treatments.

(Permethrin is an insecticide in the pyrethroid family. Pyrethroids are synthetic chemicals that act like natural extracts from the chrysanthemum flower. BTW, plants can’t run—that’s why many have evolved chemical means of protection. So say I went the DIY route, soaked some mums in oil, put the oil in a spray bottle, and spritzed my pants. But it failed to repel or kill ticks the ticks I bumped up against. Why? Mums come with a cocktail of natural chemicals inside those lovely flowers. And for permethrin and thus for repelling and killing ticks, I’d need to have the right chemicals in my brew—not to mention the know-how for making the stuff.)

Here’s your full-on tick check. Did we say to be thorough? Well, we’re saying it now.

Check for ticks. It bears repeating. Do a tick check at least once a day. Get to know the spots and bumps on your skin so you can recognize new ones. New ones that just happen to have legs.

Protect your pets. Just like people, pets can encounter ticks and acquire tick-borne disease. They can also bring ticks inside with them, which might expose you to ticks. So if your pet goes outdoors, it should have some protection against ticks. Ask your vet. And give it a tick check too—every day.

Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see our post “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

Swimming or bathing won’t kill ticks, whether attached or not.

Ticks have a different system of breathing than humans. You can immerse them in water for hours and they won’t croak. Besides, swimming or bathing might not be enough to remove an unattached tick crawling on your body. The best way to kill a tick? Remove it safely with pointy tweezers, then place in a jar of rubbing alcohol.

And there you have it. If we don’t see you at our statewide conference Breaking the Cycle: Integrated Management of Ticks and Mosquitoes on August 7 (9 AM at the Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, New York), we’ll have a video of the conference uploaded on our website soon after.

It’s not too late to register. Open to the public!

And, as always, we have more Tick Information on our DON’T GET TICKED NEW YORK homepage

 

 

 

 

 

July 18, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do

Tick, Tack, Toe the Line: Lyme Disease and What to Do

You’ve all heard about them, right? Yeah, the little buggers sneak up on you, bite you, and—maybe—make you sick. Sometimes really sick.

They’re not really bugs, of course, but tiny eight-legged critters remotely related to spiders but without the benefits spiders provide. (Note that adult females plump up like small grapes once they’ve satisfied their appetite.)

Just for fun, I wrote a sentence on my finger — period and all. And yep, the larvae are that small. (Courtesy Cal Dept Public Health)

For today, we’re considering blacklegged ticks, aka the deer tick—the name it was christened with years ago, before entomologists realized that tick is already here; has been for thousands of years—and it already has a name. Yes, we’ve got a couple of other ticks we can’t ignore. But that’s for another day.

So … the best reason for ditching the name “deer tick”? It suggests deer are the problem. OK, blacklegged ticks do infest deer and deer can travel widely, so yes, they carry them around in the literal sense and ticks will drop off here, there, most anywhere. But no, deer don’t vector (aka “carry”) Lyme disease. Look to mice, chipmunks, and shrews for that.

So. Back to the topic at hand. The youngest ticks are six-legged larvae, the size of the period at the end of this sentence—and with one exception, they don’t vector disease. (More on that in another post.) After they feed on, say, a mouse or robin, they morph into nymphs and grow as large as poppy seeds. Since poppy seeds with legs are still darn small, they’re the ones that most often nail us.

And the adults? They’re more likely to vector Lyme and the co-infections that too often accompany it or act in its stead. After all, ticks have adapted to be secretive; to keep from being detected. But since by now they’re the size of sesame seeds—still small, yes, but easier to see—you’re more likely to get shed of them before they do damage.

No matter which life stage they’re at, know how to protect yourself. Because you can’t count on feeling them crawling on you. Here’s the countdown:

Tick habitat—it’s everywhere.

Recognize and avoid tick habitat. Tick species differ in where they prefer to hang out, but it’s possible to come too close for comfort to a tick anytime you leave the pavement. Sure, some parts of the state are home to orders of magnitude more ticks than others are, but that’s no reason to think you’re immune to those nasty little critters catching you unawares. And it’s so easy to be unaware.

Daily Tick Check! Regardless how careful you are, you won’t manage to steer clear of ticks 100 percent of the time. Perform daily tick checks even if you haven’t been outdoors in a day or so. Get to know the spots and bumps on your skin so you can recognize new ones. New ones that just happen to have legs.

Dress the part. If you’ll be in tick habitat (meaning you step off the pavement), take precautions by wearing light-colored, long pants tucked into your socks and a light-colored shirt tucked into pants. It’ll be easier to see ticks crawling on you and more difficult for ticks to get to your skin.

Get yourself some super-pointy tweezers, the type that airport security would probably confiscate. Be firm: steady and straight up until that sucker lets go.

Use repellents. Here’s more on choosing the right repellent.  and this guide from Consumer Reports.

Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks — using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up. Other methods could increase the risk of acquiring a tick-borne disease. To learn more, see “It’s tick season. Put away the matches.

Which is all we’ll say for now, other than on August 7 we’re hosting a statewide conference on—you guessed it—ticks. Oh … and skeeters, too:

  • Breaking the Cycle: Integrated Management of Ticks and Mosquitoes
  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018, 9 AM
  • Westchester County Center, 198 Central Ave, White Plains, New York

June 19, 2018
by Mary M. Woodsen
Comments Off on Tick Trickery

Tick Trickery

Got ticks on your mind? Your questions. Our answers:

How common are tick-borne diseases — and who is at risk?

Lyme disease is the second most common infectious disease in the entire U.S. But over 96% of all cases come from only 14 states. Now that’s scary, because New York and the Northeast are at dead center for tick trickery.

What looks like spilled ink? That’s where most ticks hang out. (CDC)

Indeed, Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the entire United States — and the second disease most commonly reported to the Centers of Disease Control, aka the CDC. (It comes right after chlamydia and before gonorrhea—both sexually transmitted diseases that could strike most anywhere.)

Each year, the CDC gets reports of about 30,000 cases of Lyme disease. But most likely that’s just a fraction of the number of cases. The CDC estimates that each year between 300,000 and 400,000 people are infected with the bacteria causing Lyme — and children ages 5 to 9 have the greatest risk. Parents, check your kids for ticks every day. Make it as mandatory as brushing teeth. “Oh, they were outside for only 10 minutes” or “Oh, but we live in a big city. How could there ticks possibly be here?” — trust us, these aren’t reasons to skip.

Those numbers on the left-hand side? It’s 5-9 year-old boys who most often run into the wrong side of a tick. (CDC)

No, you don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to be exposed to disease. People can chance upon ticks in all sorts of places. Pushing a friend on the swings, gardening, picnicking at the park, taking a shortcut through a vacant lot, raking leaves—any perfectly normal activity could put you or your kids on the wrong side of a tick.

What diseases do ticks transmit?

Lyme disease is hardly the only pathogen ticks carry. They can also carry anaplasmosis, babesiosis, erhrlichiosis, Powassan virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and Borrelia miyamotoi—a bacteria related to the agent of Lyme disease. (More info: Lyme Disease by the Numbers.)

Naturally, different kinds of ticks transmit different disease-causing pathogens — and the list of tick-borne pathogens continues to grow. Plus ticks can transmit more than one pathogen at a time. Example? The blacklegged tick  (aka the deer tick) can transmit Lyme disease, anaplasmosis and babesiosis all at once. Here’s the short list:

  • Blacklegged tick: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus
  • Lone star tick: ehrlichiosis, southern tick associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia
  • American dog tick: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia

Does every tick convey disease-causing pathogens?

No. Ticks don’t share a common destiny. Not every tick carries the pathogens that make us sick. Here in the Northeast, three ticks transmit pathogens—the blacklegged, lone star and American dog ticks.

Larval ticks, the stage that hatches from eggs with only six legs (nymphs and adults have eight legs), aren’t thought to play a major role in disease. But if larval ticks take their first blood meal from an infected animal, well—they’re infected too. Once they morph into nymphs, they can transmit whatever pathogens they took on.

Note: it’s possible that Powassan virus, carried by the blacklegged tick, can be transmitted from a female to her offspring — and that larval blacklegged ticks can transmit Borrelia miyamotoi, a type of relapsing disease. And what’s a relapsing disease? It’s when signs and symptoms of disease return after it seemed the disease was gone.

Blacklegged nymphs cause the most disease—partly because

  • they’re roughly the size of a poppy seed—not easy to see, and …
  • they’re active in spring when people aren’t thinking about ticks — though it’ll be summer before symptoms show.

Some nymphs and adults never acquire pathogens. Not every tick is infected. The rate of infection differs throughout the region. No common destiny there.

If I find a tick crawling on me, am I at risk for disease? And … how do they transmit disease?

Ticks transmit pathogens only while they’re attached and feeding. So no, a tick can’t infect you while it’s still looking for a place to feed. Once it’s fed, it’ll drop right off. That said:

  • if you find a tick crawling on you, don’t squish it
  • brushing ticks off your clothing is no guarantee they’ll stay off.

But if you keep a small vial of rubbing alcohol in your backpack or bag, you can quickly kill ticks by dropping them in. And that’s one less tick in your neck of the woods.

How do they make you sick? Ticks pick up pathogens from one organism (make that the mouse rummaging around under the shrubbery) and transmit them to another (make this one your kid). Here, not for the faint of heart, is how it works:

Larval ticks slide their mouthparts into the mouse — their soon-to-be host — and begin sucking blood. (Those mouthparts might seem a poor excuse for a head, but they get the job done.) At the same time, their saliva enters that mouse’s bloodstream — and yes, the saliva might be carrying pathogens. The time required for pathogens to pass from tick to host is variable. While viruses such as Powassan virus can be transferred within minutes, bacteria appear to take longer. (Just how long is open to debate, so we won’t get involved in that one.)

Need to remove a tick? Learn how here: Its tick season. Put away the matches.

We’ve got a couple of other posts in the pipeline, so we won’t return to this riveting topic until early or mid-July. But do stay tuned.

June 8, 2018
by Matt Frye
Comments Off on Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

Tick and Mosquito Repellent Safety—for You and Yours

You might have noticed that we’re having a bit of a crisis with ticks and mosquitoes. They bite, they suck, and they can transmit pathogens to us during their feeding. One of the many things that we can do to avoid ticks and mosquitoes is to use repellents. But there are two important ideas to consider before picking a product from the shelf:

  1. Not every product has been proven effective, and
  2. The safety of a product depends on how you use it.

Product Efficacy
More than ever, an old adage reigns true: buyer beware! When it comes to tick and mosquito repellents, there are a number of products that claim to be effective—but offer no evidence or data to support the claim. This is especially true of many “natural” products with essential-oil active ingredients. Why? Products with essential-oil active ingredients don’t have to pass a scientific review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and can go to market without demonstrating that they work. These products give users a false sense of security that they are protected against biting insects when they are not. Learn more about this topic from our Tick FAQ section, What natural products can I use to repel ticks? For details on what products work, see the Insect Repellent Buying Guide from Consumer Reports

A confusing mix: some of these products can be applied to skin, others should not under any circumstance contact skin while wet. Read the label before using any pesticide product.

Product Safety and Use Restrictions: The Label Is the Law
As a pest management educator, I’ve said a million times, “the label is the law.” This is literally true—all labels of EPA registered products read, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.”

Here is a critical distinction about the products you might see on a shelf:

  • Products with the active ingredient permethrin can actually kill ticks and mosquitoes. According to one label, “This product must not be applied to clothing while it is being worn. Under no circumstances should bare skin or clothing on the body be treated. In other words, if you’re going to use permethrin, you have to treat your clothing or gear before you intend to use it so the pesticide can dry. According to the label on one product, this may be two to four hours.
  • On the other hand, products with active ingredients DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 can be sprayed on clothing and skin to repel biting pests. These products work by masking the cues that make you smell tasty to mosquitoes and ticks. According to one label for these products, Use just enough repellent to cover exposed skin… Do not use under clothing… Frequent reapplication and saturation is unnecessary for effectiveness.” 

We want you to enjoy the outdoors—and we want you to do it safely. Both types of products can be used to protect you, your friends, and families from the bite of blood-feeding organisms. To further protect health, always read and follow label instructions.

For more information:

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