Although Ohio has a number of tick species, the species which carries Lyme disease has been relatively absent from our state… until now. The Lyme-carrying tick is the Black Legged Tick, also known as the Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis). There are now established populations of Black Legged Ticks in 26 Ohio counties including Franklin and Delaware counties in Central Ohio. Most of the affected counties are east of Interstate 71 (see the link to the Toledo Blade at the end of this post for a map of their distribution in Ohio). Since this species of tick has a two-year reproductive cycle, health officials fear that we will be hit hard in 2014.
Unlike most ticks that live in Ohio, the Black Legged Tick prefers to live in the woods instead of tall grass. And unlike most ticks, they are active in the winter whenever the temperatures are above freezing.
It is believed this tick species lived in two areas following the end of the last ice age, what are now known as Connecticut and Wisconsin. Since then the population has been spreading toward the heartland of America from both sides.
How Ticks Get On You
According to Dr. Glen Needham, ticks rarely are found above knee level in the wild. When you discover one higher than that on you, they’ve most likely crawled up there. Ticks do not drop from trees onto your head. Ticks are completely blind, so they wouldn’t even know you were below them. Instead when a tick is trying to find a host it moves to the end of a twig or leaf and holds its front two legs up so so it can grasp onto you when you brush up against it.
Keeping Ticks Off Your Skin
You may have heard that one coping strategy is to wear light-colored clothes. It is not the case that light-colored clothes repel the tick. The advantage of wearing light-colored pants is that it makes it more likely that you’ll notice the tick while it’s still on the outside of your clothing, so you can brush it off. You may also have heard that it’s good to tuck your pants into your socks. Again the idea is to prevent the tick from latching onto your flesh underneath your pant legs. There is still the possibility that it will crawl upwards until it does find exposed skin to latch onto. But if you are wearing light-colored pants, it will give you or your companions time to notice it before this can happen.
Two chemicals can be used to help protect you from ticks: DEET and Permethrin. Use DEET on exposed skin. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends using repellants that contain at least 20% DEET. An application of DEET should last up to several hours, after which it should be reapplied.
Permethrin is a chemical that’s applied to clothing, shoes, and tents. According to Dr. Glenn Needham in the video, Beware Ticks in Winter, the Permethrin should be sprayed on till the surface of the fabric is damp. He claims such a Permethrin treatment will last through six hot water washings. The CDC notes that it is possible to buy clothing that has been pre-treated with Permethrin that will last through 70 machine washings.
Clothing treated with Permethrin needs to be washed separately from other clothing. It can have bad health effects on pets (especially cats), so make sure that you read the instructions carefully.
Even if you are feeling tired after a day outdoors, you should inspect yourself for ticks as soon as you possible, and the CDC recommends showering or bathing within two hours of getting indoors as this provides another opportunity to detect the little blood suckers. Parents should inspect their kids. The CDC recommends examining:
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.
I once discovered a tick on my own scalp by running my finger tips over my entire scalp.
One of the difficulties in finding the Black Legged Tick is that they are much tinier than the ticks we are accustomed to seeing here. The nymph form is miniscule. I discovered a very tiny tick on my leg while hiking around Lake Vesuvius in Wayne State Forest. It was so tiny that my husband wasn’t convinced it was a tick. However it wouldn’t brush off, and I could place a fingernail under its abdomen and lift that part away from my skin while the head stayed put. I carry needle-nosed tweezers with me while hiking, so I removed it immediately. It is recommended that the site, the tweezers, and your hands (if you’ve touched it) are disinfected immediately. I carry Purell with me while I’m hiking. Since that contains alcohol, I used that.
Tick Removal Methods
By removing the tick within 48 hours of the tick latching onto you, you can prevent the disease from being transmitted via its saliva. The best way to remove a tick is by using tweezers whose tongs come to a narrow point. The narrow points at the end allow you to grasp the tick by its head without risking squeezing its body. You don’t want to squeeze the body because you risk squeezing out fluids from the tick into your bloodstream which might introduce pathogens. Once you grasped the ticks head lift straight up with steady, even pressure. If you twist while pulling up, you risk having the ticks head or mouth parts breaking off and being left behind.
Proper Tick Removal from WildOhio on Vimeo.
Folk Remedies That Do Not Work
The following methods of tick removal do not work:
- Blowing out a hot match and sticking the hot end on the tick
- Dabbing the tick with Petroleum Jelly
- Dabbing the tick with fingernail polish
- Dabbing the tick with rubbing alcohol
Source: see Tick Myths and the video Ticks in Winter linked to at the end of this post.
Bulls Eye Rash
One of the earliest signs of Lyme Disease is the Bulls Eye Rash. If this appears you should seek medical treatment immediately. The course of the illness goes much better if it is detected and treated early.
We saw the following sign at a trailhead in Shawnee State Park.
Well for one I have to say I found it a little bit intimidating that a person would have so many nymphs and larvae on him that it would be inconvenient and time-consuming to remove them one at a time. But since state officials are posting this, I assume that it works. We are now including some duct tape in our hiking gear.
- Beware of Ticks in Winter, a video by Wild Ohio, a division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The video features a discussion with Dr. Glen Needham, a professor at Ohio State University
- Number of deer ticks surging across Ohio, published by the Toledo Blade on January 18, 2012. This includes a map showing in which counties Black Legged Ticks have been discovered.
- Lyme disease carrying ticks showing up in more Ohio counties, published by the News Channel 5 on September 10, 2012
- Black legged ticks becoming more prevalent in Oho, published by Loveland Magazine on October 19, 2012
- Preventing Tick Bites, published by the Center for Disease Control
- Deer Ticks, published by Wikipedia
- Ticks in Ohio, published by ODNR
- Tick Myths, published by ODNR. Lists folk remedies for tick removal that do not work (as told by Dr. Glen Needham, a professor of entomology at OSU).
- Lyme Disease, published by Wikipedia
- Tick-Borne Diseases, published by the Ohio Department of Health
- Increasing Number Of Deer Ticks Has Health Officials Concerned, published by nbc4i.com. Includes an interview with an Ohio woman who has been struggling with the disease for a year.
- Lake Metroparks: How to Avoid Deer Ticks
More on Outdoor Hazards
21 thoughts on “Bad tick-related news for Ohio”
Hiking in the woods at Erie Bluffs (just east of Conneaut), we picked up so many deer ticks… it was horrifying. I loaded the dogs into the car, looked over at one, and its head was covered with deer ticks. They were all like that. I probably removed over a hundred ticks from each dog!! At first, I was fooled because they looked like burrs.
In the process, I learned from Tick Encounter Resource Center that if you get the ticks off right away, your risk of Lyme and other tick borne diseases is minimized. It takes 3 days before the critters regurgitate, which is how they pass the diseases they carry. So, find them right away to keep yourself and your pets safe
Great post! Thanks for the info.
We were in southern Illinois last year (2014) and I was completely taken by surprise as to how many ticks got on us during a quick walk in a natural area. Having duct tape might actually have helped. There were ticks of all sizes and development. Even sitting in our van, with the widows down, one managed to jump on my wife’s arm. We were not prepared so we left the area.
Hungry little critters!
I’m glad to hear that the article was useful. However, I am wondering if you might have been misidentifying some of the bugs that were bothering you. The thing is, you said that one of the ticks managed to jump through your van’s window and onto your wife’s arm. But according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), ticks can’t jump. Here’s an excerpt from the CDC’s article:
Ticks at times produce a small amount of fiber, much like a spider, and can float in the air.
Karen, I think that your mistaken about ticks being able to spin silk like a spider. According to Brandeis University, both ticks and spiders are arachnids. However arachnids are subdivided into 11 orders. Spiders belong to the order, Araneae, and members of this order have spinnerets (this is the organ that produces the spider’s silk). However mites and ticks belong to the order, Acharina, and members of this order completely lack the silk-producing organ. Without a spinneret, it should be impossible for a tick to produce a filament of silk with which it could float through the air. Perhaps what was thought to be a floating tick was actually a very small spider?
There are a number of mites that spin silk threads from glands around their mouths, using it to make nests or cover eggs. Some (Brazilian?) ticks are also described to produce salivary silk proteins, probably for forming a tissue scaffold in the host that supports anchoring/feeding (Maruyama et al, 2010). These authors suggest that silk proteins augment cement-type proteins with silk proteins. Silk proteins may be more important to ticks with shallow anchoring noses or a need to anchor for longer periods of time.
Al, I didn’t realize that mites and tick could spin silk using their mouths instead of a spinneret organ. Very interesting!
Well, actually my kids and I were at a park in Pemberville, OH when ticks dropped from higher places onto us. They were also crawling on picnic tables under a shelter. I know they don’t fly, but I believe they do a little more than wait for their prey…they go looking. Rotten things. I know they were ticks, not another creepy crawly.
I live in a very wooded hiking county. I adopted a little dog from a local family. It was full of ear mites, worms, fleas and who knows what else. 1 month later I started the beginning of a painful disease. It started spreading up my arms. Over 2 years of agonization later, after doctors not believing I was sick, a Dr. finally diagnosed me with Morgellons disease.
Melanie, I’m so sorry to hear that you have been having such health difficulties.
Dear Melanie, My daughter and I have been suffering from the same problem that sa tarted after a puppy cam in to our family that had ear fungus but I don’t think the diagnosis was correct, we had small ticks around our property as well as dear. We have been ill for one year and have actual sores on noir skin with possibly larva. Please we need to know the name of your treating MD. Sincerely , Robin
I found this article very informing, although intimidating regarding the size of the black legged ticks. Alberta gave a warning this year to watch out for this species.
What about ticks on small animals like kitties with fur? How do you check a squirmy kitty?
Deborah, I don’t have a cat myself, but while searching for more information on this, here are a few pointers I ran across.
To do the search you are basically “finger combing” through all your cat’s fur, using the most sensitive part of your finger tips. If you feel a bump, part the fur and try to see what it is, and if you visually confirm that it is a tick, you need to remove it making sure that you do NOT squeeze the tick’s abdomen (this might squeeze pathogens from the tick’s stomach into your cat’s blood stream). Instead grip the tick by its head with narrow-nosed tweezers or a special tick-removal tool for pets.
And here’s a brief video showing a vet searching for ticks on a cat:
I found a tick on my dog when I was petting him but I was just glad that it didn’t latch onto him as soon as I saw it I jumped up cause I’m only 11 so it freaked me out it was under the fold in between the armpit and shoulder he’s white and you had to move fur to see it so they find good hiding places
I think if I saw that sign, I would avoid that area. I do NOT like ticks!
When I saw the tick sign, I certainly had qualms. But we just drenched ourselves with DEET instead. Fortunately we completed our hike without a single tick. What a relief! Even if they weren’t spreading horrible diseases around, they are soooo yucky.
The duct tape recommendation is one I haven’t heard before!
I was really surprised by the duct tape recommendation, too. But I think you are only supposed to use it on the nymphs and larvae. They are so tiny.
The nymphs and larvae are my greatest fear… especially when my son is out running around in tick habitat. I always do a tick check before we get into the car to go home, but the tiny ones are bound to slip through my careful hunts. Great post!! Sorry to hear that you now have to deal with these pests in Ohio, too.
We had ticks before, but our local tick species didn’t carry Lyme disease and weren’t active in winter. I can’t believe that now I can be hiking through the snow and still have to worry about ticks. I can understand your concern about finding the nymphs and larvae, especially the larvae. When I removed the nymph from me, I wasn’t even sure it was a tick until I started to tweeze it off at which point it flared its little legs in classic tick fashion. Shudder. I don’t know how I would notice the larvae.