Ticks: Another Bloodsucker More Active in Summer

July 31, 2010; 8:40 AM ET
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A female deer tick is seen under a University of Rhode Island microscope in the entomoloy lab March 18, 2002. Although it is easy to come in contact with ticks in Tennessee with it's many wooded areas, the huge majority of tick bites do not transmit disease to people, according to health officials. (AP Photo/ Victoria Arocho, File)

It seems that the summer is just full of pests - mosquitoes, bed bugs and ticks.

All three of these biters have a tendency to become more active in warm weather, making spring and summer the season to be on alert.

According to Steve Jacobs, an urban entomologist at Penn State, tick species vary region to region. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania, the American Dog TIck is fairly common.

However, ticks can move about quite easily, thanks to their hosts.

Jacobs said, "As people move around more and more, they move ticks around with them and the major population centers for these ticks are populations centers of humans."

While people are outdoors more, which could increase their exposure to ticks, Jacobs said ticks "are more active in the summer time or warmer weather."

However, again pointing put that ticks are different in different parts of the country, Jacobs said, "The farther south you go and down into the Carolinas, and farther south you'll get them much earlier and in some of these places you might even see them year round."

He said the black legged tick, which is known colloquially as the deer tick, can be found 12 months a year.

"The deer tick is active in temperatures as low as 28 degrees Fahrenheit, so as long as there's no snow on the ground in the woods, this where you'll usually find ticks," Jacobs said.

While ticks may be able to continue biting in cold weather, Jacobs said ticks in their nymph or juvenile stage are the most likely to transmit Lyme disease. "They're really active, May, June and July," he said.

Ticks do like to avoid extreme heat. Jacobs said, 'If you have very hot, dry periods, that's not very favorable for them and they probably won't be what we call 'questing' crawling up on vegetation and waiting for a host to walk by."


Reported Cases of Lyme Disease by Month of Illness Onset in the United States, 1992-2004

Lyme disease patients are most likely to have illness onset in June, July, or August and less likely to have illness onset from December through March. Image courtesy of the Center for Disease Control.

To avoid ticks, the Center for Disease Control recommends avoiding areas where they are common if possible. Traditional habitats are typically warm, humid wooded and grassy areas.

If you can't avoid a tick-prone area, consider:

* Using a repellent with DEET

* Wearing light-colored clothing to make it easier to see ticks

* Tucking your pant legs into your socks

Being aware of ticks is extremely important as they can transmit diseases, including Lyme disease, Tularemia and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which Jacobs said can kill a person in a week.

Visit the CDC for more information on tick awareness and how to safely and successfully remove a tick if you find one on yourself, a family member or a pet.

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