Deer Tick (Ixodes scapularis), the most common carrier of Lyme Disease in Canada.
Image Credit: Pixabay.com
5 Myths About Ticks
Myth 1: Ticks carrying Lyme Disease do not live here.
Birds carry ticks, so it is easy for Lyme Disease (and other illnesses) to be carried from place to place. “Of the 139 [deer ticks] found in Alberta last year, one in five tested positive for the [Lyme disease causing] bacteria; and that number has health officials on alert.”1 People have contracted Lyme Disease in Alberta and Lyme carrying ticks have been found on pets in urban centres. Be tick aware in urban parks as well as mountain parks!
Myth 2: Ticks only spread disease in the spring.
Overwintered and new adult ticks are most common in the early spring and fall period, whereas the smaller nymphs are generally most active and peak in the summer months.”2 Ticks “go dormant as the temperature drops below 40° F [4.4 C].”3
Myth 3: Deer Ticks only bite deer and Dog Ticks only bite dogs.
Deer and dog ticks have been named after the animals they are most frequently found on, but they will feed off of anything they can.
Myth 4: All ticks have 8 legs.
All ADULT ticks have 8 legs, but their larvae have only 6 legs.4
Myth 5: Ticks drop on you from trees.
“Ticks live in the soil and emerge to climb tall grass, shrubs, bushes and low level tree branches up to a height of 20cm-70 cm in search of a blood host. They attach when people or animals brush past.”5 They can, however, drop from birds (a common host), and “are ‘programmed’ to try and attach around your head and ears” (Source), so wearing a hat can also help keep hitchhikers off your scalp!
“People are getting ticks anywhere — their backyards and the river valley. There doesn’t seem to be any pattern we can pick out,” said Daniel Fitzgerald, a laboratory technologist with Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development.6
|American Dog Tick (?) we found on my daughter’s head|
- Use bug spray that contains 20-30% DEET or 0.5% permethrin. Be sure to spray your footwear! (www.cdc.gov/ticks/avoid/on_people.html)
- Cover up! Wear long sleeved shirts and pants. Gaiters should be worn in tall grass or bushes to prevent ticks from getting in at your ankles. Tucking your pants into your socks will work too.
Wear a hat. If you have long hair, keep it up in a ponytail.
- Wear light colored clothes so it is easier to see ticks. If you see any, brush them off immediately! *Check your backpack for hitchhikers too!
- Stay out of tall grass and brush as much as possible.
- Avoid sitting on the ground on the side of the trail. Sit on a bench or rocks at hiking breaks instead. (This said, ticks can be found on rocks, too. Mountain sheep, birds and other animals carry them, so where there are animals, there can be ticks).
- Remove ticks immediately & remove them correctly. The risk of disease transmission is “0% – 1% if it is attached for less than 72 hours.”9 Tick removal instructions: www.cdc.gov/ticks/removing_a_tick.html.
- Shower and scrub with a washcloth after hiking to remove any little
critters you can’t see that haven’t attached to you.
- Comb your hair and check your children’s hair for ticks. Ticks like to bury into your scalp where it’s warm and there’s less chance of detection.
- After hiking, toss hiking clothes in the dryer on high heat for 20 minutes (10 minutes if you have a gas dryer). The heat of the dryer will kill any ticks. Dry then wash clothes!10
|Fully engorged tick that likely fed for several days.|
For more information on which tick repellents to use and how to use them, please see this post.
Remember that not all ticks carry diseases, so there is no need to panic if you find a tick already attached to you. Be sure to remove it though (see #7 above)!
|Cover up, wear a hat and use bug spray to keep ticks off of you! Tutu optional. : )|