AMES, Iowa — As Iowans head out into wooded areas this spring and summer in search of mushrooms, for a weekend hike or simply to enjoy nature, they should keep an eye out for some common, tiny pests — ticks. This time of year is when all three tick species that commonly attack humans are becoming more active, and care should be taken to prevent and detect ticks.
Iowa State University Extension offers a publication, “Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases,” that focuses on the three main species: blacklegged (deer) ticks, American dog ticks and lone star ticks. The publication discusses biology, habitat, detection, prevention and risks of all three species. The publication is free for download from the ISU Extension Online Store, www.extension.iastate.edu/store.
“Of the three species, blacklegged ticks are of greatest concern because they can transmit Lyme disease,” said Jon Oliver, entomology graduate student and member of the Medical Entomology Laboratory. “Starting about now and lasting for the next two months, immature, nymphal blacklegged ticks will be active. Because of their small size — smaller than a sesame seed — the nymphs are hard to detect and often remain attached to people long enough to transmit the disease.”
Oliver said blacklegged ticks require high humidity to survive, so are almost exclusively found in thickly forested areas, particularly areas with lots of oak trees.
Oliver and other scientists at the Medical Entomology Laboratory at Iowa State University track ticks and mosquitoes, the two leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States. They also track which counties in Iowa have had ticks infected with Lyme disease, information that is included in “Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases” and on their website, www.ent.iastate.edu/medent/ticks_IA.
Iowans can assist the lab with the Lyme Disease Surveillance Program by submitting ticks they find. The lab relies on submitted specimens to track tick distribution and infections status in the state. Information on how to submit can be found on the lab’s website at www.ent.iastate.edu/medent/surveillance.
“If you find a tick on yourself, a friend, a family member or a pet, we will gladly take the tick and identify it for you,” Oliver said. “When you find a tick of any sort, wrap it in tissue, add a blade of grass, seal it in a zip-top bag and mail it to us.”
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