By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
Oklahoma State University Agricultural Communications Services has released a three-part series on ticks in Oklahoma. The report shows that this year’s tick season is expected to be extremely active. This series looks at why and provides safety precaution tips as well as what to do if bitten.
“We didn’t have a winter that could impact tick populations and that means our tick season is going to be longer and could potentially be more intense if the temperatures stay in normal ranges for this time of year,” said Justin Talley, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension livestock entomologist.
The report cites that no significant hard freezes and a wet spring have allowed more opportunities for ticks to survive.
“Not only do you have ideal environmental conditions but you also have ideal pasture conditions that allow wild animals to import tick populations,” Talley said. “The same goes for domesticated animals like cattle, horses and dogs, which also serve as hosts for ticks.”
Homeowners may want to treat their yards to control for ticks, especially if located next to natural habitats and wooded areas. A variety of tick-control products in both granular and spray form can be found at local home improvements stores.
“Sprays can be diluted by rain and heavy dew, but some granular products are activated by water. Be aware of the forecast to get the most out of your tick control program,” Talley said.
A strong pest control program for pets also can help manage a yard’s tick population.
“Pets are the number one access for ticks getting in the house. Animals will go into wooded habitats and bring back ticks, so pet owners should keep their tick protection up to date whether it’s a spot, pill or collar,” Talley said. “For Oklahoma, this is a year-round process for pets. You can’t take off any month because we have staggering tick populations that can affect your pets.”
Protecting the family against ticks
“Though ticks are active year-round, from now through the end of summer, hard ticks will be a main concern, said Talley. “Our biggest concerns would be the American dog tick and the lone star tick because these two are involved with tick-borne pathogens.”
The American dog tick has been linked to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
“Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is a challenge because you’re going to have high tick populations in areas that can harbor a lot of ticks and human contact,” Talley said. “We have a high incidence of RMSF.”
The lone star tick is associated with the Heartland and Bourbon viruses, which have been identified in Oklahoma.
The report states that the most effective repellants are products with at least 15 percent DEET.
“If you’re going to be in areas where ticks also are likely to be, apply repellant especially around the ankles, up to the knees and around the waistline,” Talley said. “If you’ll be in heavy brush also put repellant around the neck and all the way to the ankles.”
Although less effective than DEET, alternatives include some natural, plant-based products, such as citrus oil and lemon grass oil.
“Some parents don’t like putting DEET on their kids, so if you put these natural products on them, make sure to apply it around their ankles and waistlines,” Talley said. “Both adults and children will need to keep reapplying natural products to boost their effectiveness.”
When ticks bite
Talley states that if you are bitten, a pair of tweezers is important to have available.
“When you find an attached tick, use tweezers to grasp and pull it out with slow and steady pressure, or tick removal devices that do not twist to remove the tick. Adult ticks can be pulled out by hand with slow steady force. Smaller ticks such as seed ticks or nymphs should be pulled out with tweezers,” said Talley.
Once removed, the tick can be washed down the drain or sealed in a plastic bag and then put in the garbage.
However, if bitten, Talley recommends keeping the tick for about a month.
“If you begin developing symptoms, you can tell your doctor you were bitten by this particular tick. That helps direct the treatment,” Talley said.
More information can be found on the Center For Disease Control and Prevention website.