Tick Talk: Avoiding Lyme This Summer

Nature // June 10, 2021

By Brad Maule

Hot enough for ya? Well, it’s hot enough for ticks! The warm days of late spring into summer – right now – is the most active time of year for ticks in Wissahickon Valley Park. And since Pennsylvania has the highest rate of Lyme disease of any state in the nation, you should keep be sure to keep yourself and your pets safe by keeping a sharp eye out for eight-legged hitchhikers.

There are many kinds of ticks, but four are common to the Wissahickon: American dog ticks, lone star ticks, groundhog ticks, and black-legged ticks (AKA deer ticks). While you don’t want any of them crawling on you or burrowing into you, you really need to mind the deer tick: deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease, and in their tiny nymph stage in June and July they are harder to spot. Dog ticks and lone star ticks don’t carry Lyme, but can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and sever other unpleasant tick-borne diseases.

A deer tick nymph about to feed on a mayfly. Avoid these!

That’s the bad news – the good news is that ticks in no way should keep you indoors! You can take precautions by spraying your clothes with bug spray or treating them with Permethrin ahead of time. Stay on trail, especially in areas with tall grasses like Andorra and Houston Meadows. Finally and most importantly, make sure after every hike to do a thorough tick check (including your scalp, hair, armpits, and groin) – checks are the one surefire way to avoid tricky ticks.

If you do find a tick, use a pair of tweezers, grip it at the point of entry, and pull firmly but slowly out of your skin. (Yum.) Ticks generally take up to eight hours before infecting their carriers, but don’t wait that long – checking your body for ticks as soon as you get home is the best practice. If you brought your pooch along, check them too, as ticks like dogs just as much as they like deer, mice, and humans.

Want more information? Check out the PA Tick Lab website to stay up on tick trends, and if you’re not skeeved enough, you can watch an informative tick webinar from Penn State Extension, here. You can learn even more at cdc.gov/ticks! Ahhh, tick! Tick tick tick!

Photo credit: Images courtesy of Brad Maule.