Saturday, May 17, 2008

Landscape - Ticks

Workers in the landscape industry should be aware of how to deal with ticks. The following is some information on the subject.

Q: Where do ticks come from and how can I avoid them?
A: Ticks thrive in woods, uncut fields and brush. They climb onto lower portions of vegetation and attach to a suitable host passing by. To reduce tick encounters, follow these precautions:

1. Don't walk through uncut fields, brush, and overgrown areas, especially during April-July. When working in tick-infested areas, wear light-colored clothing and long pants tucked into boots or socks, and consider using tick repellent.

2. Workers should have someone inspect them after being in tick prone areas. Ticks often attach at the waist, armpit, neck and scalp, but can attach virtually anywhere. Promptly remove any ticks, using the method discussed below.

3. Keep grass and shrubs trimmed, and clear overgrown vegetation from edges of a property. Ticks and their wild hosts will not normally infest areas that are well maintained. Treating the property with insecticides is of little benefit since mowed areas are not normally infested. If insecticides are used, treatment should be concentrated mainly along borders and fences, and between overgrown areas and the lawn. A good way to confirm if ticks are present is to drag a white flannel cloth or sheet through suspected areas. Ticks will attach and be visible against the white background.

Insecticide sprays containing pyrethroid active ingredients permethrin, cyfluthrin, bifenthrin or lambda-cyhalothrin or carbaryl (Sevin) are effective. One to two applications during late April/May and perhaps mid-summer is often all that's required.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a disease caused by a bacteria vectored by the deer tick. It is sometimes referred to as ‘the great imitator' since symptoms of the disease are common to many other diseases. It is initially flu-like but if not treated can develop into rheumatoid arthritis-type conditions. It is not usually fatal but can be debilitating and difficult to treat if not detected early. Humans, our pets, wild and domestic animals may get the disease.

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria transmitted by the deer tick Ixodes dammini. This tick is found in grassy areas, open fields and especially the margin where fields and wooded areas join. Incidence of the disease is increasing in Delaware.

Description and Life Cycle

After hatching from an egg in late spring, deer ticks go through three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult. Each stage requires a different host animal. During each stage a tick feeds only once. It is a 2 year life cycle. Larvae - are very small (about the size of a pin head) and tan in color. They feed in late summer (near ground level) on mice, shrews, chipmunks, voles, and other small animals. Larvae pick up the disease bacteria feeding on an infected animal.

Nymphs are the size of a poppy seed. They are beige in color, sometimes appearing transparent with a dark head. Nymphs feed from May through August on larger animals; including birds, raccoons, opossum, squirrels, cats, dogs and human beings.

Adults ticks are tiny only the size of a sesame seed. Males are black; females have a brick-red abdomen and a black shield near the head. Females may swell to 1/4 inch when fully engorged after feeding. Adults are found from September through November, and again in March and April. Adults feed primarily on deer, but will also attack cattle, horses, dogs, etc. Human beings are accidental hosts of nymphs or adults.
Disease Cycle

The risk of being bitten by an infected deer tick is greatest in the summer months of June and July when the nymph stage is active. This is the time of year when people (and notably children) are most active outdoors. About 25% of the deer ticks in Delaware (depending on where they are found) are infected with, and able to transmit Lyme Disease. Newly hatched deer tick larvae do not initially carry this disease; they pick it up from an infected animal usually the white-footed mouse, the primary carrier/source of the Lyme Disease bacterium. After feeding, a tick that picks up the bacterium passes it to the next life stage, and is able to infect future host animals.

The early signs of Lyme Disease are:
• Headache
• Flu-like symptoms
• Spreading "bull's-eye" rash
• Swelling and pain in the joints

Lyme Disease symptoms mimic many other diseases. About 80 percent of Lyme Disease victims develop a rash at the site of the tick bite within 2 days to 4 weeks. If untreated, more severe symptoms may develop--sometimes months to years later. If you suspect Lyme Disease, consult a physician immediately.

Tick Removal

If you find a tick on your body, remove it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. For feeding ticks, use tweezers ONLY; do NOT use nail polish, Vaseline, matches, or other methods that may traumatize the tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents. Grasp the tick with tweezers around its head, close to the skin and pull it outward slowly and firmly. Disinfect the bite afterwards with antiseptic.

Tick Prevention

1. Avoiding Ticks Outdoors
o Avoid tall grass and shrubby areas
o Wear slacks tucked into socks
o Wear light colored clothing (to help locate ticks easily)
o Stay close to the center of hiking trails (avoid brushing against vegetation)
o Check companions and children frequently for ticks

2. Use a repellent
• Apply to shoes, socks, and pants:
• PERMANONE* (permethrin) - kills ticks on contact - Labeled for clothing only, it will last through two or three washings.
• N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide commonly known as DEET. ("DEET,""Off," "Cutter," "Muskol")--repels ticks labeled for skin or clothing.

Information from the University of Kentucky and the University of Delaware.

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