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Ticks

 

 Content Editor

 


Chuck Denney, Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)

Most people try to avoid ticks on a nature walk, but Graham Hickling looks to attract the tiny pests. He’s conducting research about tick species for the UT Institute of Agriculture, and drags this cloth net through brush to see if any will attach. Hickling says we don’t need to panic, but we should be aware of what ticks can do.

Dr. Graham Hickling (UT Forestry, Wildlife & Fisheries)

“Ticks are fascinating from a scientific point of view because this tiny little arthropod lives at least a couple of years. Here we’ve got this long-lived tick. Its gut is an ideal environment to transport viruses and bacteria and protozoans.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

Most ticks live in the woods, away from people, and bite animals like deer, birds and our pets. But sometimes ticks invade our world, and Hickling says we should learn to identify the most common species. Like little vampires, they want our blood. We have more than a dozen tick species in Tennessee. The most common are the American dog and the lone star tick. The American dog is linked to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and now the lone star may be the source of a new troubling illness.

Dr. Graham Hickling

“In 2012 we saw a really recent example of that with several farmers in Missouri getting sick with a virus that hadn’t been seen before.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator
Known as the “Heartland Virus,” we’ve now seen one case in Tennessee, and its spread by the lone star, the most common tick in Tennessee. Hickling says Lyme disease bacteria are rare in Tennessee ticks. Regardless it is wise to stay away from these pests. Hickling recommends you keep grass mowed, and create buffer zones of rocks, gravel or wood chips to keep ticks away from your yard. And there are other steps to keep ticks off you.

Dr. Graham Hickling
“You can be a bit unfashionable by tucking your trouser legs into your socks. That’s challenging on a hot day though. You can wear something like deet or cutter or permethrin – so repellents that sort of keep ticks off you.”

Chuck Denney, Narrator

These tiny creatures shouldn’t be feared, but we should be careful if they attach to us. They can cause harm, so be watching out for them, and avoiding them if possible.


OF NOTE: UT Ag Institute experts say it’s best to remove ticks by grasping their heads with tweezers and gently pulling them off your skin. Clean the area with alcohol after the tick is removed. An excellent tick ID guide is http://tickencounter.org.