Ticks, Mountaineering Scotland

Ticks — and how to deal with them

What are ticks?

The tick is an invertebrate related to spiders. There are over twenty species in Britain related to various different mammal or bird hosts. They carry a number of diseases, the most well known of which is Lyme disease.

They can be found all across Scotland and particularly in the wetter west, in woodlands, moorlands and long grass.

Scientists recorded more than 800,000 ticks in just a short stretch of thick vegetation at the side of a path. They are active all through the year, but particularly in summer.

Two ticks of same type: the one on on the left is engorged after feeding, while the one on the right has not fed

What’s the problem?

    The tick has three life stages: larva, nymph and adult, taking between one and three years to complete a life-cycle. Each stage requires a single blood meal to grow. It is when they are feeding that ticks can pass on infections and bacteria.

Both larval and nymph stages of the �sheep tick�, the most common species found in Scotland, are the ones most commonly encountered by walkers. They climb to the top of foliage and attach to passing animals, generally small mammals, but they will also feed on humans if they get the chance. Climbers on sea cliffs can be at risk of encountering tick species, like the ‘seabird tick’ too.

  • The tick’s bite is painless and some ticks can be as small as a poppy seed or spec of dirt, so it can be easy to overlook them. A tick will generally remain attached until it is gorged with blood, increasing greatly in size, before dropping off. This can take between a few days and 2 weeks.
  • Top tips for avoiding ticks

    When you are out and about in the hills try to:

      Avoid walking through long grass and areas of thick foliage — consider keeping to paths and tracks in heavily infested areas.

    Leave no exposed skin on your legs, feet, ankles or arms — wear long sleeves, tuck trousers into your socks or wear gaiters, choose fabric which is thickly woven.

    Spray insect repellent on clothing and socks.

    Wear light-coloured clothing so you can see the dark ticks and remove them — inspect clothing often to remove the ticks.

  • Check yourself, your children and your pets for ticks when you get home, especially your hairline, navel, groin, arm pits, between toes, behind the ears and knees.
  • Lush growth on the hill — ideal tick terrain

    How to remove a tick.

    Firstly, don�t panic if you find an embedded tick � it’s most likely that it’s not infected, and if you remove it within 24 hours it is unlikely to have passed on the bacteria.

      The most reliable method of removing a tick without leaving any remnants in your skin is to purchase a tick hook.

    Tick hooks come in different sizes for different sizes of tick and only cost a few pounds — they also come with instructions for safe removal. Essential kit for outdoorsy people (use your membership card to get a discount at these outdoor shops).

  • Don�t use a lighted cigarette or match or essential oils to encourage the tick to fall off and don’t squeeze the tick (especially one that is engorged with blood) as this will inject the fluid in the tick back into your body.
  • If you become unwell.

    Lyme disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose as it can demonstrate different symptoms in different people and some of the symptoms are similar to other infections and illnesses.

      It takes up to 24 hours before the bacteria are transmitted from the tick to its host and symptoms of infection may appear at any time within two weeks after the bite.

    A common sign is a distinctive bulls-eye rash that may appear (though not always) around the area of the bite. As infection spreads several rashes can appear at different sites on the body.

    Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, headaches, stiff neck and body aches — similar to the flu. These symptoms may be persistent or may occur intermittently.

    >>> If you experience any of these symptoms, see your GP immediately and mention your concerns about Lyme disease.

    The ‘bullseye’ rash that can signify Lyme Disease

    Lyme disease — what is it?

    Early treatment with antibiotics is required in order to be effective in lessening the short-term symptoms and the long-term complications. Full recovery is possible, but treatment in the later stages of infection is more difficult and relapses are common.

    After several months of being infected, about � of those treated with antibiotics develop recurrent attacks of painful and swollen joints (arthritis) that last from a few days to a few months. The arthritis can shift from joint to joint, the knee being most commonly affected. About 10-20% of infected patients will develop chronic arthritis.

    Research indicates that the variant found in Scotland is different to that found elsewhere in the UK. The Scottish variant seems to cause more neurological problems with symptoms ranging from stiff neck, severe headache, meningitis, temporary paralysis of the facial muscles (Bell�s Palsy), numbness and poor motor coordination.

    Further information

    This extract from the Mountaineering Scotland Hill Walking Essentials DVD has good advice on avoiding and removing ticks:

    See also:  Couch bugs?

    You can also find out more about ticks and Lyme disease at the following links:

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    5 Steps on How to Get Rid of Ticks in Yard

    by Alex Johnson November 12, 2019, 5:58 pm

    If you live in the Northeast, “tick season” seems to be a year-round problem now. According to the CDC, between 2016 and 2017, the reported cases of tickborne diseases increased by 22%.

    To make matters worse, this problem is no longer isolated to the typical hotbeds. The number of US counties with blacklegged ticks responsible for most tickborne diseases has more than doubled over the last twenty years.

    New species are being identified. New diseases are being discovered. And their range is expanding. If you live in an area habitable to ticks, crucial action should be taken to protect yourself, children, and pets – and it starts with your own backyard.

    Before we dive into how to get rid of ticks, let’s first take a look at the different types of ticks and how to tell if you have an infestation.

    Identifying Types of Ticks

    There’s quite a few varying species of ticks throughout the United States, all of which have varying geographic spreads, life cycles, and diseases. If you recently found a tick, use the chart below to help identify (note: these are enlarged to show detail. Actual tick sizes will be smaller).

    While any of these ticks can bite, the ones that most commonly bite humans are Blacklegged (Deer) Ticks, Lone Star Ticks, and Dog Ticks, however our treatment guide will work for any of the ticks shown above. If you’re looking for more information on each tick, the CDC has an excellent guide on the full geographical ranges/spreads.

    Which Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?

    The Blacklegged Tick, also known as the Deer Tick, is the primary culprit of lyme disease in the Eastern half of the United States (including Mid-Atlantic) while the Western Blacklegged Tick transmits the lyme bacteria on the west coast. Other common ticks like Lone Star and Dog Ticks do not transmit lyme disease, however they can still carry other diseases.

    Other Tick Diseases

    • Anaplasmosis
    • Babesiosis
    • Borrelia miyamotoi Disease
    • Colorado Tick Fever
    • Ehrlichiosis
    • Heartland and Bourbon Virus Diseases
    • Powassan Virus Disease
    • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
    • Rickettsia parkeri Rickettsiosis
    • Tickborne Relapsing Fever
    • Tularemia

    Signs of Infestation

    If you seemingly keep finding ticks on yourself or pets after spending time in your yard, it’s safe to assume you have an outdoor problem that needs attention. It’s difficult to know if you have a tick infestation outdoors without knowing the proper locations to search. Since ticks prefer shaded and moist areas (more on this later), you can typically find them under shrubs and leaves, wood piles, stone walls, and tall grass. If you think you have ticks in your grass, a quick trick you can do is drag a white towel across the lawn – they will cling onto it as you move over them.

    As much as you hate to hear it, tick infestations can also occur indoors. This happens when you or your pet brings a tick indoors and it then reproduces. Ticks can lay anywhere from 1500-2000 eggs at a time, and this will usually happen along the baseboards. Again, if you keep finding ticks on you inside, even if you haven’t been outdoors much, this is a red flag that you have a very big indoor problem and will have to treat it with targeted insecticides along all cracks, crevices, and dog cages.

    Let’s take a closer look at how to deal with the most common problem: killing ticks in your yard.

    5 Steps to Get Rid of Ticks

    Prevention essentially relies on reducing encounters with infected ticks – primarily black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks). This requires a multi-faceted approach focusing on reducing localized tick populations through both environmental changes (making your yard less desirable for ticks) and targeted insecticides. Follow this easy 5-step guide to get rid of ticks from your yard.

    1. Clear out yard debris

    Well-kept lawns are surprisingly important for deterring ticks. Since ticks like shaded and moist areas, it’s important to keep yard debris to a minimum.

    Cut your grass short and frequent. Ticks use tall blades of grass as a step-ladder to reach out and grab onto a warm host as it walks by. Short grass provides less shade for ticks and the increased sun results in a drier lawn. In addition, since lawn trimmings provide that shaded and moist area that ticks prefer, it’s recommended to use a mower with a bagger that can be emptied elsewhere. Not only does it pick up the lawn trimmings, but can also remove the ticks along with it. If you do not have a bagger, you can simply rake the grass.

    Pick up leaves in the fall. As the cold weather approaches, ticks become increasingly active in searching for a warm body. Piles of leaves provide the perfect habitat, so it’s very important to pick them up as soon as possible.

    Trim shrubs and low-hanging trees. Overgrown plants, bushes, and trees provide dense shade, so trim them back enough to allow enough sunlight to keep the area beneath them dry. Shrubs such as barberry bushes are hotbeds for ticks, as they have a wide, dense base which reduces sunlight. In fact, some states are banning them for their invasiveness and association with lyme disease.

    2. Create a barrier from shaded areas

    Add a 3′ border to edge of yard. If you live near a tree-line or wooded area, adding a 3 foot border of wood chips or pea gravel creates a nuisance for tick movement and in most cases will avoid crossing. It’s important to use traditional wood chip mulch and not the dyed variety, the latter of which can often be moist.

    Keep recreational areas within the border. Placing swingsets, patios, and decks as far away from the treeline (and within the mulch border) will drastically reduce your exposure.

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    3. Eliminate deer and rodent attractants

    Deer are considered a reproductive host for ticks. This means ticks are able to feed until they are engorged and have enough protein supply to lay between 1500-2000 eggs. Yes – that’s a whole lot of problem for your yard. The good news is that reproductive hosts contribute blood but no pathogens. So this means the ticks feeding from deer will not obtain lyme disease from that deer, but they are increasing the tick population in your neighborhood.

    On the contrary, mice and small rodents are considered reservoir hosts which do contribute infectious pathogens. And unfortunately, it’s estimated that between 40% – 90% of white-footed mice carry Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes lyme disease.

    This is a two-fold problem that we’ll focus on: reducing the deer attractants (who are essentially assisting in increasing the tick population) and reducing the rodent attractants (who are increasing lyme disease cases).

    Get rid of plants that deer like. Your local garden center/nursery will be a great resource specific to your region to help identify if your plants, shrubs, or trees are attracting deer and what replacements are available.

    Keep plants away from house. If you have plants and bushes right alongside your house, mice and chipmunks use these as a runway to stay protected from predators in the sky. Keeping things nicely trimmed and spaced out helps alleviate some of this concern.

    Use deer and rodent repellents where they frequent. Personally, deer repellent does not work very well where I live (north east) for white-tail deer. However rodent repellents such as Critter Ridder work pretty well if you know where they like to live. For example, I have a stonewall that attracts a lot of chipmunks (and probably mice at night), so I spread some of the repellent around the whole rock wall and there’s definitely less chipmunk sightings. Remember – if you see chipmunks in a certain area during the day, it’s safe to assume there are also mice in that area at night.

    4. Place tick tubes around property

    Broad spectrum insecticides sprayed across your entire yard will kill ticks – but it will also kill other beneficial insects. Tick tubes works differently by targeting the source of most tickborne diseases – rodents.

    So, how do tick tubes work? This very simple product uses cotton balls or lint which are soaked with permethrin – one of the leading recommendations for killing ticks as it’s safe for children and dogs once dry. The permethrin-soaked cotton is then stuffed inside a cardboard tube and placed around your property where mice and chipmunks may frequent (under bushes and decks or along stone walls and foundation of home). These rodents take the treated cotton balls to make their nests, and as a result, the permethrin treats their fur in similar ways we add flea and tick repellent to dogs.

    At first glance, the whole idea of tick tubes sound like a gimmick – but there’s actually a lot of research and recent evidence showing the true benefits. In fact, Disease Ecologist Richard Ostefield is leading an $8.8 million study called the Tick Project which uses methods very similar to this. Since mice can carry dozens of disease-ridden ticks at a time, this works wonders by eliminating localized tick populations.

    There are easy DIY methods for creating tick tubes, which are obviously a cheaper alternative to buying. However when my tick problem was at its peak, I opted to buy a pack on Amazon from Damminix. They also blend in a bit better around your yard as opposed to 20 toilet paper rolls!


    Bob Beyfuss: Some tips on deer ticks and how to deal with them

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    Thirty years ago, very few humans were ever bitten by a tick in this part of the country. Part of my job as your Cornell Extension agent was to identify insects and other pests for local residents and occasionally (perhaps once a year) someone would bring in a dog or wood tick that bit a human.

    Human tick bites were very rare, however, until a “new” tick started showing up in the 1990s that clearly had a desire for human blood. The new tick at first was thought to be a newly identified species and was named Ixodes dammini. It was called “deer tick” because it was found mostly on deer where the ticks spent the winter. Further investigation determined that it was not a new tick species, but, rather, an already named species called Ixodes scapularis aka, the southern black-legged tick. This tick is relatively common in Southern states, but was rarely seen in the North.

    What has never been explained, or even seriously investigated to my knowledge, was why these ticks suddenly developed a pronounced preference for human blood, when previously that was not the case. Many millions of research dollars have been expended looking for new treatments for, or better ways to diagnose tick-borne illnesses, but this fundamental question remains unanswered. I guess pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies have more clout when it comes to getting grant money than ecological researchers do.

    It was quickly discovered that this tick is responsible for transmitting Lyme disease, a bacterial infection. Several years later, it was also discovered that the deer tick was also capable of transmitting other serious diseases such as babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis and a potentially deadly virus. Fairly recently, in the past several years, a few other tick species, including a newly discovered species in New York, the Asian tick, have been implicated in carrying some really nasty diseases, but the majority of reported cases are still due to the deer tick.

    The explosion of deer tick numbers and consequent human cases of Lyme disease has caused all of us who spend time outdoors to be especially wary. Backyard gardeners are as much at risk as turkey hunters who have a fondness for napping on the forest floor. Ticks may be found almost everywhere outdoors, but they have a preference for habitat that features tall grasses and brush.

    Ticks do not jump like fleas, nor can they fly like mosquitoes. They simply wait in ambush for an animal or a human to brush by and then they grab onto clothing or fur or feathers. Once the tick has successfully hitchhiked a ride on your clothing, it looks for a good place to take a bite. This usually takes several hours and most ticks can be brushed off one’s clothes before they bite, if you look for them frequently. They seem to prefer tight, constricted places such as under your underwear waistband, tops of socks or under a woman’s bra strap.

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    In my career, I interviewed hundreds of tick bite victims and none of them were bitten on the head, on the feet, hands, face or any other exposed area. They do seem to favor the groin area in both men and women.

    Tick bites are generally not painful at first and often go unnoticed because the tick secretes a pain-numbing substance in its saliva as it burrows its entire head into flesh. The tick’s mouthparts consist of two saw-like appendages that cut into flesh on both sides of a jagged beak. This jagged beak makes it difficult to yank out the tick once fully inserted. Inside the beak, are two straw-like tubes. One of these tubes secretes saliva to thin the blood as well as the pain-numbing substance. The other tube withdraws blood, like a tiny syringe.

    It generally takes from 12 hours to 24 or more hours of feeding on your blood for a tick to become fully engorged with your blood. The tick’s body will swell up to five times or more of its original size in the process. Fully engorged ticks really are quite conspicuous. The color of the engorged tick will also change in color from red or black, to blue/grey or tan.

    If you should discover a tick attached to you, remove it with a tweezers as soon as possible by grabbing it as close to the skin as possible and yanking it out. Do not apply any substance to the tick such as Vaseline or dish soap to get it to release its bite, despite what you may have read on Facebook. While this may allow easier removal of the tick, it also causes the tick to upchuck infected blood back into you. That is precisely how people get Lyme or the other diseases.


    Ticks on dogs: What do they look like and how do you get rid of them?

    Everything you need to know about dogs and ticks, including how to quickly, safely and effectively remove them

    Ticks are making headlines at the moment, as a new study revealed that older women living in the countryside are a higher risk of contracting Lyme disease – a rare illness carried by small number of infected ticks living in woods and long grass across the UK.

    It’s not unusual for dogs to have ticks, as the little spider-like parasites can easily attach themselves to their coat while out on walks. Ticks can’t jump or fly, so sit at the tip of grass and plants waiting to brush on the the skin, before crawling to a comfy spot and filling up on mammalian blood. Hedgehogs, cats, sheep, deer and humans can all end up with ticks. They tend to be most active in the spring and autumn months.

    Checking your dog’s fur for ticks after a walk in the woods or long grass is essential. Most ticks are harmless, but can cause discomfort to your pet. Dogs can also catch Lyme disease which is hard to diagnose, but a serious and debilitating condition.

    Here, everything you need to know about ticks on dogs.

    What does a tick look like on a dog?

    Ticks come in many sizes and shapes, but generally they’re small, flat, black and an oval shape. Once they’ve gorged on blood, ticks usually expand to the size of a small coffee bean. They can look like a wart in a dog’s fur, but on closer inspection you’ll be able to see their eight legs.

    How do I know if my dog has ticks?

    Make a habit of running your hands through your dog’s fur after a walk to feel for any lumps and bumps. Pay particular attention to your pet’s neck, head, ears, groin, muzzle, pads and toes as these are the places ticks can attach themselves to dogs most easily. Regular brushing can also help keep on top of ticks.

    How do I safely remove a tick from my dog?

    Ticks can carry infection so it’s important to remove them quickly. But, pulling a tick from your dog’s coat is a no-no. Not only do the parasite’s legs and mouth often remain embedded in the skin, potentially causing infection, inflammation and them to regurgitate infected blood back into your pet, but this can hurt your dog.

    Instead, speak to your vet about tick removal devices. They’re inexpensive and can be picked up at their practice or your local pet shop.

    How do I stop my dog from getting ticks?

    Your vet can recommend effective tick prevention treatments such as collars, tablets and on-the-spot treatments to help stop the parasite attaching itself to your dog. It’s also worth asking your vet if you live in a high tick area.

    Make sure you regularly check for ticks after walks and when brushing your dog, too. Do this by brushing their coat against the direction of hair growth so you can see the skin.

    The Kennel Club recommends carrying a tick removal tool with you when out and about with your pet, along with antiseptic wipes. Stick to paths, treat pet accessories with repellants, use tick-control products and deter ticks from your garden by keeping the grass short, too. Read more tick prevention tips from the Kennel Club here.

    Can dogs get Lyme disease?

    Just like humans, dogs can contract Lyme disease by coming into contact with infected ticks – that’s why quickly, safely and effectively removing ticks from your dog’s coat is essential.

    Symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs include fever, lameness, swollen and painful joints, and swollen lymph nodes, according to the Blue Cross. Contact your vet immediately if you think your dog may have Lyme disease. They will be able to prescribe antibiotics.

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