Not only am I lucky enough to have an outdoorswoman as a roommate, but in between hikes, biking the rail trail, and exploring the Adirondacks, she finds time to work at The Cary Institute. When I asked her for some practical, scientist-approved methods for keeping ticks off, she was more than happy to share some hard-won wisdom.
- You pick ticks up by brushing against them, they don’t fly, and they don’t drop down on you. As soon as you’re out of the woods, check your ankles and legs. Do your best to stay out of leaf-litter and tall shrubs when hiking.
- When walking around in shrubs and grass, pull your socks up and tuck your pants in, just like riding a fixie.
- Spray your legs with repellent. DEET-based is best for repelling bugs, but it’s also considered carcinogenic and has been known to melt plastic in super high quantities, but it might be worth it to prevent Lyme.
- Wear light colors as it’s easier to pick ticks off white clothing.
- Check all the places and crevices on your body immediately after your outdoor excursion. The best places for ticks are in warm dark places (knee and arm pits, behind your ears, belly button, under your hair), so make sure to go over it all, very carefully. Remember that the longer you wait before doing a tick check, the longer they have to crawl into other places on your body. Have a buddy check you out if you can’t see a part of your body!
- Ticks are nearly blind, but they can smell carbon dioxide. “So, maybe don’t breathe,” is one expert’s opinion.
- If you can get a tick off within 24 hours you can dramatically reduce your chances for Lyme disease. Ticks aren’t zombies, and it’s not an instant infection. The sooner you get a tick off the better, but don’t freak out if it’s been an hour or two.
- Ticks go through metamorphic life cycles. Nymphs are the most dangerous because they’re incredibly tiny and hard to notice on your skin. Be extra vigilant in early summer, when the nymphs are most prevalent.
- Ticks need humidity to live, so putting your clothes in the dryer on high heat for one hour can kill any ticks, nymphs, and eggs that may have gotten onto your clothing. By putting your clothes in the dryer first, you eliminate any moisture that might linger from a trip through the washer.
- Despite the overwhelming concern of getting bit by ticks while hiking, Lyme-infected ticks are highest in suburban areas that have some brush, a high mice population and little wood cover. Forest fragmentation causes low numbers of species and a high mice population, and mice are the primary vectors of Lyme disease.
With all this awareness, you should know about The Tick Project. The Tick Project is an eight million dollar initiative by Cary Scientists in conjunction with other groups, including Bard, NY State Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Over the next five years the project is testing two different tick control measures in different parts of the Hudson Valley. The two methods are a fungus that kills ticks and an acaricide that’s carried the local rodent population. The acaricide is applied to the rodent’s shoulders and back, using bait boxes. In order to get to the food the rodent has to squeeze under a wick, and the tick poison stays on their fur. It doesn’t harm them, instead when a tick lands on the animal, it’s poisoned by the acaricide, which kills it after it falls off. They are measuring tick populations, animal populations, and reported bites in the participating area with the goal of trying to figure out what’s the best method of eliminate tick populations. They have 2,000 Hudson Valley families participating in the study. Take a closer look at the work they’re doing here!
Again, finding a tick early is the best method of tick prevention! If you’re going out in the woods invest in a couple mirrors so you can make sure to check every part of your body. So fear ticks no more! Pull your hair up, tuck your pants in, and get out there and enjoy the Hudson Valley.