Wood Ticks - Just Along for the Ride

The early warm spring entices everyone and everything to become more active. Humans and pets love to take a walk in forests and prairies of Wisconsin's State Parks. Insects also love to “hitch” a ride. An unwelcome hitch-hiker is the wood tick.

Ticks are not really insects. They are arthropods; closely related to mites and spiders. In the U.S., there are 80 species of ticks. Twelve species are concerns for public health officials and veterinarians. In Wisconsin, the blacklegged tick are known as deer or bear ticks. This tick is a major concern for Lyme disease. Worldwide, ticks are second only to mosquitoes in their ability to spread disease to people.

Wood ticks, or American dog ticks are the most common ticks found in Wisconsin. They do not transmit Lyme disease.

Ticks wait atop grasses and other vegetation until an animal or human brushes against them. Then they cling to the skin, fur, or clothing.

To help help prevent these unwelcome hitchhikers:
  1. Walk in the center of mowed trails to avoid brushing against vegetation.
  2. Wear light colored clothing. Keep your trousers tucked into the socks.
  3. Wear long sleeved shirts, buttoned at the cuff. Apply tick/insect repellent to pants, socks and shoes.
  4. Wear a head covering.
Products containing 30% DEET or permethrin are very effective in repelling deer ticks. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions on the label. Most manufacturers suggest spraying the material and not the skin.

...then pull straight up.
With tweezers, hold the tick close
to the skin...
The mouth parts of a tick are shaped like tiny barbs. The American dog tick secretes an extremely tough “cement” that bonds its mouth to the skin. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with tweezers as close to the skin as possible, and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Then, wash the bite area and your hands with soap and water and apply an antiseptic. Do not twist or jerk the tick because the head may remain embedded and lead to infection. If the head or mouth parts do break off, consult your doctor about removing them.

Avoid folklore remedies such as "painting" the tick with nail polish or petroleum jelly, or using heat to make the tick detach from the skin. Your goal is to remove the tick as quickly as possible--not waiting for it to detach.

Tick removal tools