Your field guide to ticks in Virginia

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Welcome, adventurer, to Summit Environmental Solution’s field guide to battling ticks during the hot season. It’s been an especially warm summer, and ticks are out in full force. So strap on your protective gear and get ready to take on these pests head on.

If you think this sounds like some fantasy adventure, let me reassure you, it’s all real. Here’s everything you need to know to defeat ticks in Virginia.

The four common types of ticks

The four most common ticks in Virginia are the lone star tick, the American dog tick, the brown tick, and the deer tick. Any of these ticks are capable of carrying disease – most familiarly is Lyme disease.

  • The Lone Star Tick is about 5 mm in length. It’s a light red / brown, with a white spot on the back of its body.
  • The Brown Tick is about the same size as the Lone Star Tick, but its distinguishable by the fact that it doesn’t have any white spots on it’s back.
  • The Deer Tick is a smaller tick, usually about 2 or 3 mm in length and has a long almost snout on it. It is off-white but usually has black legs.
  • The American Dog Tick is about 5 mm long and has short wavy lines and patterns on its back.

Now you know what to look out for. Next, you should know how a tick gets on you.

How ticks attack their hosts-Questing

Ticks are sneaky buggers. They can’t fly or jump, but they’re especially astute at sensing body heat, moisture, and vibrations. It’s even believed that some species can identify shadows of people and animals.

Ticks are great at recognizing well-worn paths and will often rest at the tips of grass, leaves, or shrubs. Once a passerby brushes the tick, they use this opportunity to latch onto their host and dig in. This is known as questing.

Like a quest from a bad video game, a tick’s mission is complete once it finds a good spot to sink its fangs. Ticks like areas of thin skin that are warm — places like ears, pits, or crotch areas are perfect for ticks to settle in for a snack.

How to avoid tick bites

Here’s a quick rundown of ways to prevent bites. Keep in mind, there’s no surefire method to prevent a tick bite, but these options will minimize your chances of getting bitten.

1. Deet

Deet is a tick repellant that can be applied like bug spray to your skin and clothing. By following the label’s instructions, Deet can help minimize your chances of getting bitten and contracting a disease.

2. Wear long clothing

Long, loose-fitting shirts and pants are a great way of preventing ticks from getting to your skin. Wear long socks and tuck your pant legs into your socks for extra protection. Also, tuck your shirt into your pants and make sure that you’re wearing a belt that fits well.

Another tip is to wear light-colored clothing. Since ticks are usually dark, it’s easier to spot a tick crawling on you when you wear lighter colored gear. This may seem like a no-brainer, but this is an incredibly useful trick.

3. Permethrin

Permethrin is sold under the brand name Nix. It’s an insecticide that’s very effective at killing ticks on contact. Some people have been known to have allergic reactions to it, so be careful when using this as opposed to Deet.

4. Discourage deer

Ticks often attach themselves to deer, and deer wandering through your yard may result in an excess of ticks on your property. Fences that keep deer out and removing food, and getting rid of trash are all proactive ways to reduce the chances of ticks near your home.

Lyme disease

As a kid, I always wondered why people were so afraid of lime disease. Key Lime pie was delicious, I thought. Silly me didn’t realize that Lyme disease was an especially serious condition that if not treated, can spread to the heart and nervous system and prove fatal.

Symptoms include rashes, dizziness, fevers, headaches, achy muscles and joints, and unusual fatigue.

The good thing is that it usually takes 26-48 hours of a tick biting you to transmit the disease. As long as you’re thoroughly checking yourself each night, you should be able to pretty safely avoid the transmission of this disease. If you’re concerned that you may have contracted Lyme disease, be sure to check in with your doctor as soon as possible!

Ticks can be an inconspicuous danger to your and your property. If you’re noticing a lot of deer in your yard or seeing ticks on yourself after spending some time on your property, be sure to reach out to Summit Environmental Solutions to see what we can do for you.

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