Arkansas tick season returns in force
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Despite a cold winter that some hoped would kill off ticks, the pestilent pests are active and biting throughout Arkansas and neighboring states.
“This spring we’re seeing an abundance of lone star ticks and American dog ticks,” said Kelly Loftin, extension entomologist. Other species common in Arkansas include the blacklegged tick, the winter tick, the Gulf Coast tick and the brown dog tick.
Arriving with the ticks is the risk of serious illnesses, Loftin said. Some tick-borne diseases can be fatal if untreated, as evidenced by the recent death of a Delaware, Oklahoma, man from the Heartland virus. The disease has been linked to the lone star tick, according to the Center for Disease Control, and other cases of Heartland virus have been reported in Missouri and Tennessee.
Loftin said the lone star tick also may transmit southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), ehrlichiosis and tularemia. The American Dog tick is considered the primary carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Loftin said several people have asked him if this past winter’s harsh temperatures would kill the state’s ticks, and he said no.
“Tick species found in Arkansas are adapted to survive harsh winters,” Loftin said. “Some tick species survive in leaf litter, soil or other protected sites,” he said. “Others may survive the winter on a host animal.”
Loftin offered tips to avoid tick bites and exposure to potential tick-borne diseases:
- Avoid tick-infested areas, including dense vegetation, tall grass and the zones where open fields meet forested areas.
- Use tick repellants according to label instructions. Insect repellents containing DEET or clothing only repellents containing permethrin are most commonly used.
- Find and remove ticks. Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for ticks. Wear light-colored clothing in tick-infested areas. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after returning from tick-infested areas to wash off crawling ticks and locate attached ticks.
- Create a tick-safe zone in your yard by clearing tall grass and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns. A three-foot-wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas will restrict tick migration into yards. Mow frequently, keep leaves raked, stack wood neatly and remove old furniture, mattresses or trash from yards.
- Examine gear — ticks can ride into the home on clothing, pets, backpacks, etc.
- Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks.
Loftin said attached ticks should be removed promptly. If removed within a few hours after biting, the chance of a tick-borne illness is greatly reduced.
Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers, pulling upward with a steady pressure, Loftin said. Don’t twist or jerk the tick as this can cause mouth parts to break off and remain in the skin.
“Thoroughly clean the area the bite area and your hands with alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water,” Loftin said.
Loftin advised knowing the symptoms of tick-borne diseases. If seeing a healthcare provider, they should be alerted to any tick exposure.
Tick-borne diseases can also cause serious illness in pets and other domestic animals, Loftin said. He advised checking them frequently and using tick-control products recommended by veterinarians.
News releases and photos are available online at https://arkansas-ag-news.uark.edu/News.aspx
Kelly Loftin, Extension Entomologist
Fred Miller, Division of Agriculture Communications