As the spring season arrives, many people head outdoors – which is a good thing! Unfortunately, and mostly due to climate change, ticks are there waiting for us in greater numbers than ever before. When walking through woods, underbrush, tall grasses or weeds, on your own property or in Land Alliance preserves, the chance of picking up unwelcome hanger-on rise. And things are not going to get better any time soon. As climate change progresses, we are experiencing longer, warmer summers and shorter, milder winters which ensure the survival and proliferation of ticks.
The three most common ticks on Long Island are deer tick, American dog tick and lone star tick. Deer ticks, the most commonly found, are transported by white-footed mice and deer. As suburban development has replaced natural habitat such as forests, deer and mice have no other choice but to join us where we now live.
Ticks feed on Long Island’s white-footed mice; 90 percent of these mice carry Lyme, other bacteria and parasites. Development destroys fox, raptor and other mouse predator habitat, so more mice survive to host ticks.
What Can We Do to De-tick?
Many people are embracing natural solutions like keeping chickens, bats, and other predators. Did you know that one opossum can vacuum 5,000 ticks in one week with its mouth? If a pet opossum is not part of your plan or if your village does not allow chickens or guinea hens, there are some simple things we all can do to avoid ticks, including the following:
- Avoid wooded and brush areas with high grass and leaf litter. Walk in the center of trails.
- Apply insect repellents. Experts recommend repellents containing 20 percent or more DEET be applied to clothing and skin. Use products that contain permethrin on clothing.
- Wear light-colored clothing and tuck pants into boots or socks and shirt into pants. Keep long hair tied back.
- Check your clothing constantly while working or walking in wooded areas.
- Check yourself before leaving the area and again when you get home. Tumble dry on high heat clothing worn outside for at least 10 minutes to kill ticks.
- And, if you are bitten by a tick and a bullseye-shaped redness ensues, see your doctor.
Please don’t let the fear of ticks keep you from spending precious time in nature.