It’s summer so prepare for the buggies! Ticks and mosquitoes are some of the worst pests in this area in terms passing along diseases and making one itch. Despite this, still enjoy outdoor fun but make sure to stay protected against these pests!
There are over 800 tick species in the world, but only a few found in PA.
- American Dog Tick, Dermacentor variabilis: Most commonly seen tick in PA. When full, it can be the size of a small grape. Besides dogs and us, other PA hosts include livestock, deer, opossum, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, and many more. They are the major carrier of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF); rarer than Lyme but potentially more serious. It CANNOT transmit Lyme Disease.
- Blacklegged Tick, Ixodes scapularis: previously known as the deer tick, (which is no longer the correct designation), is the Lyme Disease vector. The larvae and nymph feed on birds and small mammals, adults prefer deer, and any stage can feed on us. Typically, they require 24+ hours of attachment before they can transmit Lyme.
- Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum: A known vector for Tularemia, RMSF and tick paralysis. It’s a poor Lyme vector (in PA it’s only known to transmit RMSF). They feed on small animals, humans and deer at all life stages.
- Groundhog Tick, Ixodes cookei, is seen less than others. It is host specific for groundhogs although occasionally found on birds, small animals and humans. It is not a known vector for any zoonotic diseases.
So, now that you know, what’s next? How about preventing tick bites in the first place?
Treat your clothes! Wear light colored clothes to help spot ticks and tuck pant legs into socks to help keep them from getting to your skin. You can spray clothes and shoes with permethrin (a synthetic form of an insecticidal compound from chrysanthemums) to repel and kill ticks or with a lemon eucalyptus oil. Insect repellant clothing can be purchased at outfitters such as LL Bean, REI and EMS.
Treat yourself! You can make your own essential oil spray by combining 20 drops of lemongrass, 20 drops of lavender, 20 drops of eucalyptus globulus in ½ cup of water (Not FDA approved, but it seemingly works for BCAS naturalists!). Do a tick check when you come inside (check hair, waistband, behind the knees and under the arms) and learn the proper way to remove an attached tick (use a narrow pair of tweezers as close to the head of the tick and your skin as possible and pull straight up).
Treat your yard! Mowing grass regularly and removing overgrown vegetation in tick-loving shady, humid areas will discourage ticks from staying. Keep wood piles away from buildings to reduce mice exposure and keep children’s play equipment away from overgrown areas.
Also, encourage wildlife to come to your yard. This will give ticks a more diverse host population, which will help prevent them from only feeding on the white-footed mice (lyme carrier). Most squirrels are actually lyme-resistant, so if blacklegged ticks feed on them, lyme won’t be transmitted! Opossums are also fierce tick-killers! Over 90% of ticks using opossums as their host will be killed during the opossum’s intense and frequent grooming!
Not only do we want to protect against disease from ticks, we also want to avoid disease and itching caused by mosquitoes!
Again, many animals eat these pests, so encourage wildlife to come to your yard! Some examples of mosquito predators are waterfowl (they eat the larvae and adult), bats, fish, tadpoles, turtles, dragonflies (referred to as mosquito hawks), damselflies, craneflies, and spiders!
If you want to spray your clothes or yard, just as you would to protect against ticks, we recommend garlic juice! Mosquitoes are garlic-sensitive (over 1,000x more sensitive than humans!), so a little goes a long way. Garlic juice is natural, so it doesn’t harm humans, pets or plants! Even though humans wouldn’t be able to detect the smell of the garlic sprayed on the yard or clothes after a few minutes, the mosquito will still sense it. So even though you can’t smell it, they can stay away from the sprayed area for up to a month or more.
BCAS gets it. Sometimes nature can get nasty and we need to know how to protect ourselves from it at times! Learn more by clicking on the following links or by attending our panel discussion and wine reception on July 12th, 2017, at 6:30pm! Tickets can be purchased in advance here!