Time for Tick Talk

March 30, 2016 greg wagner


Tick on palm of hand. Photo by Greg Wagner.
Tick on palm of hand. Photo by Greg Wagner.

The ticks are out!

In Nebraska, ticks become active early in the spring and are one of the first biting pests we experience as the weather warms.

Ticks are part of Nebraska’s environment, and shouldn’t stop any of us from pursuing our favorite outdoor activities this time of year — wild turkey hunting, morel mushroom picking, bird watching, tent camping, hiking, fishing, etc.

Spring Elkhorn River bank fishing. Photo by Andre Shousha.

We just need to take the necessary precautions to dissuade these little buggers from crawling on us, embedding in our skin and causing health problems such as Lyme disease!

Some people think ticks fall from trees, but this is an old wives’ tale. Ticks do not fall from trees, but rather come off tall grasses, low shrubs and layers of leaf matter. You may find them before they attach themselves because of their practice of wandering and searching to find a suitable place to feed on warm-blooded animals such as we humans!

Tick on hand. Photo by Greg Wagner.
Tick on hand. Photo by Andre Shousha.

Ticks, which are small arachnids, require blood meals to complete their complex life cycles.

Tick. Photo by Andre Shousha.
Close-up photo of tick on hand. Photo by Andre Shousha.

To see various images of ticks found in Nebraska, click here.

To prevent issues associated with ticks, experts from UNL’s School of Natural Resources suggest wearing lighter-colored clothing to help spot crawling ticks. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants with tight-fitting cuffs are recommended as are pant legs tucked in socks and shirts tucked in pants. Insect repellent materials that are safe and proven to be successful should be used.

Treating shoes and clothes with the synthetic insecticide permethrin, which, when properly applied to clothes, can repel and kill ticks for several washes. Permethrin in treated clothes is more effective than any other repellent!

Shoes are the most critical item to treat, because nymph ticks—the ones that cause the majority of tick-borne diseases, since they are hard to see and tend to go unnoticed—perch in spots close to the ground and often get to skin by crawling up shoes.

A few outdoor clothing companies sell pretreated clothes and camping gear making them tick-repellent for numerous washes. Did you know that permethrin is found in antimalerial bed nets?

What’s also very important is to inspect the body while and after being in an area where ticks are known to be common.

Tick on finger. Photo by Greg Wagner.

If you have a pet, make sure it is protected from tick bites. Consult your veterinarian. A range of effective products are available and range from pills to flea and tick collars.

Any tick discovered must be removed as soon as possible. Heat or flames should never be used to remove an attached tick, and the tick’s body should never be twisted. The tick needs to be gently and directly pulled from the skin. The embedded area should then be washed with soap and water followed by an antiseptic application. It’s a good idea to save the tick and place it in a plastic container or bag so it can be tested for disease, if necessary. Showering after spending time outside in tick country should be done, as well.

Also, because ticks are so vulnerable to drying out, the hitchhiking parasite can be killed on clothing by giving a quick whirl in the dryer on high heat for at least five minutes.

When it comes to ticks, prevention from bites is definitely the key though!

For those who may not be keen with using a synthetic insecticide like permethrin, listed below is an inexpensive alternative you might want consider. There are no guarantees with it, but this homemade, “smells good” tick/insect repellent concoction has worked well for me! I received the recipe a while back from professional acquaintances who worked in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). You know the ticks in Minnesota are as round as silver dollars and the mosquitoes up that way reach the size of hummingbirds, don’t you? HA! Just kidding.

Here’s the recipe for you to blend at home in a spay bottle, shake and then apply liberally to your skin and clothing as needed.

2 Cups White Vinegar 

1 Cup Avon Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil

1 Cup Of Water

1 Tablespoon of Eucalyptus Oil

Remember, you can reduce your chances of getting a tick bite by wearing the right clothing, using repellents, checking for them often, and showering after being outdoors.

Greg Wagner poses with an adult male wild turkey he harvested during Nebraska’s spring archery wild turkey hunting season. Photo by Mark Davis.

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