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It's tick season!

Jeffrey Hahn, Extension Entomologist

We have waited patiently (or in some cases impatiently) for the arrival of spring. Now that it is here, we can’t wait to get outside and enjoy the nice weather. Keep in mind that with the warm weather also comes ticks. With a few precautions, you can still enjoy the outdoors without worrying about them.

Adult female American dog tick (wood tick) is not an
important disease vector. Photo: Jeff Hahn, UMN Extension
There are two common ticks in Minnesota; the blacklegged tick (also called deer tick) and the American dog tick (also called wood tick). Both ticks are nuisances because they bite to feed on our blood as well as the blood of our pets, including dogs and horses.

However, blacklegged (deer) ticks are a health problem because they are a potential vector of Lyme disease and other diseases (see Tick-borne disease in Minnesota). Both of these ticks are common in grassy fields and the underbrush of hardwood forests.

Manage the ticks in your yard

Keeping ticks out of your yard is challenging, especially when property is adjacent to natural habitat. Fortunately ticks generally are not found in lawns that are kept short. Routinely mowing brushy areas along the perimeter of lawns will help minimize ticks from moving into yards.

If large numbers of ticks are present, it is possible to treat the perimeter with an insecticide to help reduce the number that may move into that area. However, it is not practical or effective to treat an entire area of natural control ticks.

Regardless of what you do on your property, use personal protection when you are in known tick areas, i.e. fields and wooded areas. Take these steps to protect yourself from ticks:  
  • Stay on trails and avoid when possible walking into brushy, grassy areas where ticks are more common.
  • Wear long, light colored pants so ticks are easier to detect. For additional protection, tuck your pants into your socks.
  • Use repellants: Deet can be treated on clothes and skin while products containing permethrin are applied just to clothing
  • Do a tick check when you return from the outdoors. They are small and can be easily overlooked so look carefully. Be sure to look in out of the way places, like behind ears or behind knees.
If you do find a tick, especially if it has been biting, get it positively identified. While American dog ticks are not an important disease vectors, blacklegged (deer) ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, especially Lyme disease. For more information, see Ticks and their control.

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