How to enjoy a tick-free hike

Tick Control LLC | Greenwich | Professional Tick Spraying Service.

Each year, as the warmth of the March sun thaws the frozen ground and slowly erases the last remnants of winter, the anticipation of seasonal outdoor activities grows. Spring rushes in with a freshness in the air and emerging new growth and wildlife come alive once again. Likewise, we too come out of hibernation to enjoy the wonder that only mother earth can bestow.

What better way to spend a weekend afternoon than with a hike in the woods with friends, pets, and family? If you live in Connecticut, you know the routine; long pants tucked into your socks, a thorough spray of tick repellant and you’re on your way. After a long day that was both exhilarating and exhausting, you shower and check yourself (and your dog) for ticks. It is a common sequence of actions that we do when venturing out into wooded areas across our state.

But are we really doing all we can to protect ourselves from ticks and the pathogens they carry? Do you know how to avoid the most tick infested areas while on your hike? It has been said that a well-informed person is the safest person when it comes to protecting one’s self from the risks associated with ticks.

Between 2004 and 2016, the number of cases of tick-borne illnesses doubled and several new tick-borne pathogens have been discovered in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control confirms that diseases transmitted by ticks and mosquitoes is on the rise in our country. While the reasons are still unclear, some reasons may have to do with climate change, migration and a decline in deer hunting.

It is common knowledge that ticks like tall grasses and brushy vegetation. But it is worth taking note that scientists are beginning to decipher the different behaviors of ticks as they pertain to their species. Additionally, which types of brush and shrubs they are inherently attracted to. With just a small amount of information learned herein, you can significantly reduce your risks of picking up ticks while on your next hike.

In order to identify areas to stay clear of, you must first be informed of a few tidbits about ticks. Considering the black-legged deer tick is clearly one of the most egregious vectors of all the ticks in the northeast, we will discuss exclusively their habits.

The deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) is a desiccation-prone tick that finds shelter in shady, moist and humid environments. For that reason, they choose invasive vegetation that thrives among the understory of the forest. From there, the ticks are safe from drying out while they are questing on the tips of grass and branches.

Having four stages of their lifecycle, deer ticks rely on blood meals to make the transition from one form to the next. This is why questing for a host is so important. While they do not jump or fly, they perch on the edges of leaves with front legs extended just waiting for a mammal to brush by. Because they are in a shady area, they can patiently await a host without drying out in the heat of the sun. While any mammal will do, they prefer deer as their primary host with mice and chipmunks as secondaries.

Where there are deer, mice and chipmunks, there are going to be ticks. So understanding their habits as well helps us determine the likelihood of tick infestations. An example of this can be illustrated with oak trees. Researchers know that there is a co