Ticks are more than a nuisance; they can make you sick. Keep your family safe from ticks by understanding their habitat and how to prevent them from finding you.
Photo courtesy of Iowa State University
Radio interview source: Ken Holscher, Extension Entomologist, Iowa State University
Growing up on a farm means you deal with a lot of ticks.
A tick's goal is to reach your head. But its journey begins at your feet. Ken Holscher is an extension entomologist at Iowa State University. He says ticks live at ground-level, not in trees, and they need high humidity to survive. This is why they are found in tall grass, where it's fairly shaded and moist. The best defense is to keep areas like these mowed and dry.
When you are in tick habitat, wear a repellant. But Holscher says instead of the typical mosquito spray, he recommends a tick repellant.
"It is not meant to be applied to your skin, it's meant to be applied to your clothing, and it will remain active for a long period of time," he says. "If you understand that ticks, again, start from the ground and work their way up, really when you're using that product, you only need to apply it from say the knees on down. You don't need to spray your whole clothing down with that, you just need some protection down to where the ticks are going to start."
It's also important to wear the appropriate clothing. That includes long pants, socks, and boots. Stick your pant leg into your socks to prevent ticks from getting to your skin. Holscher has another trick that makes it tough for the creepy crawlers.
"Right where the pants are tucked into the boots or the socks, I would wrap that with masking tape," says Holscher. "Wrap it a couple of times and then twist it, and wrap it a couple more times and then tear it off so that the sticky side is facing outward. It's amazing how many ticks will get stuck on that tape as they start to crawl. Again they can't crawl underneath your pants, so they've got to crawl over it. And when they hit that masking tape, they just get stuck there."
Holscher says ticks can't transmit Lyme disease unless they're attached to you and actively feeding. This is why it's very important to check your body for them after you've been out.
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