Ticks are not insects, but very small arachnids closely related to mites, spiders, scorpions, and Daddy longlegs. Ticks can transmit diseases while feeding on the blood of mammals. Though about 80 species of ticks live in the United States, only about 12 are of major public health or veterinary concerns.
Systematic data on the prevalence of ticks and how many carry diseases across North Carolina does not exist. A study conducted in Chatham county in 2009 showed that over 60% of the Lone Star ticks sampled carried rickettsia, which cause Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Please see the “Tick Testing” tab to submit your ticks to a free nationwide study underway in 2016.
While it is a good idea to take preventive measures against ticks year-round, ticks are most active from February – October in central NC.
Avoid Direct Contact with Ticks
- Avoid wooded areas, leaf litter, and brushy areas with high grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use repellents on exposed skin and clothing for protection that lasts up to several hours. Always follow product instructions.
- Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, socks and tents.
- Purchase and wear clothing that has been pre-treated with permethrin.
Conduct Daily Tick Checks
- Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors (preferably within two hours) to wash off and more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
- Conduct a full-body tick check using a hand-held or full-length mirror to view all parts of your body upon return from tick-infested areas. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair.
- Examine gear and pets. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing and pets, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
- Slow moving ticks may hide in clothing or other personal items. Be careful where you put clothing and backpacks once you return home.
Dogs are very susceptible to tick bites and tick-borne illnesses. Vaccines are not available for most of the tick-borne diseases that dogs can get, and they don’t keep the dogs from bringing ticks into your home.
To reduce the chances that a tick will transmit disease to you or your pets follow these tips:
TickWise Tip: Repel Ticks on Dogs and Cats
A repellent product may prevent the tick from coming into contact with an animal at all or have anti-feeding effects once the tick comes into contact with the chemical, thus preventing a bite.
TickWise Tip: Groom your pets
Groom pets after being in tick-infested areas helps protect both your pet and family. Pets such as dogs and cats are likely to pick up many more ticks than people. Ticks can hitchhike on pets into your home or vehicles.
The single most effective way to reduce ticks in your yard is to apply sprays to the yard perimeter, landscaping beds, or along trails and paths in the woods. Stay tuned for our new TickWarriors yard spray that uses food-grade ingredients to kill ticks on contact and provide a residual that lasts up to 30 days.
TickWise Tip: Create a Tick-safe Zone to Reduce Ticks in the Yard
The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has developed a comprehensive Tick Management Handbook[PDF – 8.53 MB] for preventing tick bites. Here are some simple landscaping techniques that can help reduce tick populations:
- Remove leaf litter.
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
- Mow the lawn frequently.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees.
- Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard by constructing fences.
- Remove old furniture, mattresses, or trash from the yard that may give ticks a place to hide.