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Learning to avoid ticks in warmer weather

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This story is the second of a three-entry series.

Part 1: Mosquito prevention

With spring in full swing and the weather warming up, it is once again time to prepare for the possibility of human interaction with ticks and mosquitoes. That is why the North Shore Land Alliance found it important to bring entomologist Dr. Jody Gangloff-Kaufmann from the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program to the Locust Valley Library on March 5.

Gangloff-Kaufmann presented an audience of over 50 people with a PowerPoint on how to recognize these pests and what they can do to prevent the parasites from harming them and others. Although the constant talk of bugs made some audience members uneasy, most found the presentation to be a helpful way of learning such a vital skill come the spring.

Ticks

Not all ticks are a threat to human health, Gangloff-Kaufmann said, and the three found in New York that are dangerous are the American Dog Tick, Lone-Star Tick and Blacklegged Tick, the last of which is also called the Deer Tick. She said that American Dog Ticks and Blacklegged Ticks tend to ambush their hosts with questing behavior, meaning that they wait in one spot to latch onto a human or animal walking by. The Lone-Star Tick, she said, will actively pursue a host.

While tick habitats differ based on an individual species’s moisture requirements, Gangloff-Kaufmann said that all three species can live on the edges of forests, which tend to see a lot of animal and human traffic. She also said that ticks have been especially active this year given the very mild winter that is coming to an end, as ticks can be active at any temperature about 37 degree Fahrenheit.

Unlike mosquitoes, humans typically do not come in contact with ticks unless they venture into their habitat, Gangloff-Kaufmann said. She said peoples should dress “tick safe” when going into nature, as well as avoid plants on the sides of pathways. This includes wearing light-colored clothes, wearing sealed pant legs and tucking pants into socks. Additionally, she said repellents can do a great deal in lessening one’s chances of being bitten by a tick.

Regardless, Gangloff-Kaufmann said that everybody should check for ticks as soon as they come inside. This can be done by doing thorough inspections of one’s body and showering to get rid of any crawling ticks. Clothes can be put into a dryer as well, as Gangloff-Kaufmann said that temperatures above 122 degrees Fahrenheit can kill ticks.

If one is bitten by a tick, though, Gangloff-Kaufmann said the best removal technique it to grasp its head with a pair of tweezers and pull directly upwards.