A Guide to Ticks in Maryland
Last Updated: 11/2/21
Estimated read time: 6 minutes
We have all seen a tick before, whether out in the woods or crawling up our leg. But why exactly are ticks so dangerous? And what can I do to protect my family?
What are Ticks?
While often called insects, Ticks are arachnids—meaning they are related to spiders and mites—and can be found in grassy and wooded areas worldwide. Adult ticks are approximately 0.1 to 0.2 inches in length, depending on their age, sex, and species, and reproduce each fall, with females laying up to 3,000 eggs.
Ticks survive by feeding on animal blood, including humans’, and have adapted to feed for long periods—their teeth are curved to remain securely attached for days. If that wasn’t bad enough, after having latched on for 24-48 hours, ticks could start to transmit dangerous diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tick paralysis, and many more.
Types of Ticks in Maryland
There are four species of ticks commonly found in Maryland and Northern Virginia and all of them are capable of transmitting diseases.
American Dog Tick
This species primarily feeds on dogs and humans. It can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and tick paralysis.
Blacklegged Tick or Deer Tick
This tick is the primary carrier of Lyme Disease and is named for its black legs. It is also known as “deer tick,” as the adults survive the winter by feeding off white-tailed deer. This type of tick is also a carrier of anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan disease.
Brown Dog Tick
Although this tick prefers to feed on dogs, it will also feed on humans. As a result, it can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever, canine ehrlichiosis, and canine babesiosis.
Lone Star Tick
This tick species has a tiny white dot on its back representing a ‘star’—and is not from Texas! It is linked to ehrlichiosis, STARI, tularemia, and the most known side effect—a meat allergy.
How to Remove a Tick
After playing outside or hiking through the woods, it’s crucial to check for ticks. As ticks like warm, dark places, check along joints, such as behind the knees or inside elbows and armpits, behind your ears, and anywhere covered in hair, including your neck. If found, ticks must be handled carefully and removed as soon as possible.
- Remove the tick from the skin: If a tick is crawling along your skin but has not latched yet, remove it using a gloved hand or tweezers. If the tick has been on, use fine-tipped tweezers to grab the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Try to capture the animal’s head instead of its body and carefully pull it away from the skin. Be sure to completely remove the tick, as its mouthparts can sometimes get left behind, causing infections.
- Clean the area: Once the tick has been removed, thoroughly wash the area with soap and water and then shrub it with iodine or rubbing alcohol.
- Identify the tick: As some types of ticks are associated with transmitting specific diseases, if you can, try to identify which species it is to make it easier to identify potential infections.
- Dispose of the tick: The most effective way to kill a tick is to drop it directly into rubbing alcohol, though some people will also flush it down the toilet or wrap it tightly in tape and throw it into the trash.
- Monitor the bite: Make sure to watch the site of the bite for several days after the tick has been removed and look for any localized rash, redness, or swelling.
- If needed—see a doctor: If you start showing any symptoms, such as fever, chills, body aches, or a rash near the bite location, go to a doctor immediately.
How to Prevent Ticks
The best defense against ticks is to prevent them from infesting your yard this summer. There are several things you can do to make your home less attractive to tick populations, including:
Cut Grass and Shrubs
Ticks like to hang out in tall and overgrown grasses and shrubs, hiding in the shade until they can latch onto a host. Cleaning up shrubs and keeping grassy areas neat will allow more sunlight into the yard, deterring ticks.
Clean up Dead Leaves
Dead leaves left on the ground to decompose are referred to as “leaf litter.” Ticks like to seek shelter under these leaves because it offers excellent protection, and they serve as a refuge in your yard. Pick up any leaves left in your yard to make sure no ticks surprise attack you while enjoying the outside.
Build a Barrier
Build a three-foot-wide barrier from mulch, gravel, or wood chips between your yard and the woods. Ticks have difficulty crossing this barrier because of their likelihood of drying out on the arid boundary. The barrier also reminds you and your family about the precaution needed to stay tick-free beyond that point.
Keep Deer Out
As deer move to new food sites, they carry ticks with them—it is estimated that as many as 50% of all deer carry deer ticks, which are most likely to transmit Lyme disease. These ticks can easily fall off in the underbrush and eventually bite pets and small children that run around your yard.
To deter deer, try building a fence around your yard, using hedges to create a border, or planting herbs with intense aromas, such as lavender, catmint, garlic, or chives.
In addition to deer, mice and rats can also carry ticks into your yard. Rodents are drawn to easily accessible food sources, such as bird food, pet food, or trash cans. So make sure to keep any uneaten pet food or birdseed in a sealed container inside your home and use a lockable lid to seal your trash cans.
Additionally, rats and mice like to nest in woodpiles or near compost piles, so keep them as far away from the house as possible.
Get Help from a Pest Professional
If you've taken steps to keep ticks away from your yard and you're looking for even more effective protection, it's time to give the tick control specialists in your area a call! A professional will have the training and education required to safely apply tick control formulas in your landscape without putting your family in harm's way and eliminate larvae, nymphs, and adult tick populations around your home.
Additional Tips to Preventing Ticks
- Wear long pants and long sleeves when outdoors and especially in wooded areas.
- Avoid sitting on logs, stumps, or the ground in brushy areas.
- Put clothing in a hot dryer for 10 minutes before washing to kill any lingering ticks that may be attached to clothing.
- Avoid overwatering, as ticks like the moisture.
The best thing you can do to keep your family safe is to cut down the tick population in your backyard and take measures to help prevent future ones. At BOG Pest Control, we offer tick control services as part of our Yard Protection Program. Give us a call at 703-666-3801 to get started.
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