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What's bugging you? Ticks!

The following is the second in a series of Odessa File columns from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County relating to ongoing CCE educational activities and offerings.

By Roger Ort
Horticultural Educator
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Schuyler County

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with different tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region. Here in Schuyler County is no exception. As an example, according to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 20 cases of Lyme disease reported in Schuyler County in 2017 alone, and the threat is increasing.

Ticks are blood-feeding ectoparasites (meaning they live on the exterior of their hosts). They look for hosts in several preferred environments, including woods, fields and grasses/turf. The three main tick species also have different habitat preferences and tolerances:

--The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick.
--The lone star tick.
--The American dog tick.

For growth, and later for reproduction, larval, nymph and adult ticks feed on blood. Most ticks typically search for hosts below adult knee height by questing -- holding on to vegetation with their back legs while raising their front legs, enabling them to grasp on to hosts as they pass by. The lone star tick also actively walks toward its prey, even across pavement or sandy areas.

Ticks are stealthy. Once they hitch a ride, they may wait several hours before attaching, and then can take another two hours to insert their mouthparts. And once attached, they inject an anesthetic to prevent you from feeling the bite. You can determine if ticks are on your property and where, using the first step in integrated pest management: monitoring.

Eight steps of protection:

1. Daily Tick Check! Despite your best efforts, you will not avoid ticks 100% of the time. Perform daily tick checks.

2. Dress the part. If you'll be in tick habitat, take precautions by wearing light-colored, long pants tucked into your socks and a light-colored shirt tucked into pants.
3. Wear tick-killing clothing. Information on proper application of permethrin can be found on "Minimize tick risk while minimizing pesticide risk."

4. Use repellents. For more on choosing the right repellant, visit "Understanding over-the-counter sprays for mosquitoes and ticks."

5. Recognize and avoid tick habitat. Tick species differ in where they prefer to hang out.

6. Steer clear of hitchhikers. Ticks don't survive long in most homes because of low humidity, but still -- you're safest if you put your clothes in a clothes dryer and run on high heat for 20 minutes.

7. Remove ticks safely. Only one method has been officially evaluated for its ability to safely remove ticks -- using sharp tweezers, grab a tick as close to the skin as possible and gently pull up.

8. Protect your pets. Just like people, pets can encounter ticks and acquire tick-borne disease.

Whether you are a hiker, gardener, pet owner or avid outdoors person, you will come across a tick sooner or later. It is always best to be educated and prepared for when that encounter happens. Read more about ticks at and contact Roger Ort at or call 607-535-7161 for more information.

1. Parts of this article were taken from the Cornell Integrated Pest Management site at

Photos in text: Roger Ort and illustration, both provided by Cooperative Extension.


For the first column in this series, click here.


© The Odessa File 2018
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869