The arrival of warm weather in Arkansas also means the arrival of tick season.
Cold, harsh winters in Arkansas have little effect on tick populations. Tick species found in Arkansas are adapted to survive harsh winters. Some species survive the winters in leaf litter, soil and other protected sites while a few others may survive the winter on their host.
Arkansas is well known for its abundance of ticks and its fair share of tick-borne diseases. Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and anaplasmosis are reported nearly every year in Arkansas. Of these illnesses, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis are the most frequently reported tick-borne diseases in the state.
The following are some tips to avoid tick bites:
1. Avoid tick-infested areas when possible. Tick-infested areas may include dense vegetation or tall grass, and the "edge" between open and forested areas.
2. Use tick repellents and apply according to label instructions. Insect repellents containing DEET (on clothing only) and repellents containing permethrin are most commonly used. Other repellents like Bio UD (2-undecanone) have been effective in repelling ticks.
3. Check yourself, your children and pets frequently for ticks. Wear light-colored clothing when in tick-infested areas, as dark ticks are more easily spotted against a light background. Parents should check their children for ticks under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, behind the knees, between the legs, around the waist, and especially in their hair. Bathe or shower as soon as possible after returning from a tick-infested area to wash off crawling ticks and locate attached ticks.
4. Promptly remove ticks when found. If a tick is removed within a few hours after attachment, the chance of that tick transmitting a pathogen is greatly reduced. Use clean, fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouthparts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouthparts easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub or soap and water. Examine gear. Ticks can ride into the home on clothing, then attach to a person later, so carefully examine pets, coats, and day packs. Tumble clothes in a dryer on high heat for an hour to kill remaining ticks. (Some research suggests that shorter drying times may also be effective, particularly if the clothing is not wet.)
5. Create a tick-safe zone in your yard. Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns. Place a 3-foot wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas. Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked. Stack wood neatly and in a dry area discourages rodents that ticks feed on. Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.
6. Know the symptoms of tick-borne disease. If you become sick and see a health care provider, alert them to any tick exposure.
For more on ticks and the diseases they cause, go to our website at http://www.uaex.uada.edu and search FSA 7047 Tick-Borne Diseases in Arkansas.
There are several 4-H clubs for Garland County young people who are 5 to 19 years old. For more information on all the fun 4-H activities that are available, call Carol Ann McAfee at the Extension Office at 501-623-6841 or email her at [email protected].
Master Gardener information
Master Gardener meetings are held on the third Thursday of each month at the Elks Lodge. They're open to the public and guests are welcome. For more information call Luke Duffle at 623-6841 or email him at [email protected].
Are you interested in joining an existing Extension Homemakers Club? EHC is the largest volunteer organization in the state. For information about EHC, call Alison Crane at 501-623-6841 or email [email protected].