Ticks

Washington County Public Health and Environment staff is available to assist with questions regarding tick safety and the prevention of tickborne disease. If your organization is interested in being added to our annual distribution list, contact the department at 651-430-6655 or PHE@co.washington.mn.us.

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  1. What are Ticks
  2. Tickborne Disease Overview
  3. Tick Bite Prevention
  4. Tick Checks and Removal

Ticks are tiny crawling bugs in the spider family that feed by sucking blood from animals. They live in wooded, brushy areas that provide food and cover for their hosts, which include deer and small mammals. Ticks do not jump or fly; instead, they crawl and grab onto people or animals that brush against vegetation. Ticks can be found year round, but are most active from March to October. 
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The most common ticks found in Minnesota include the Blacklegged (deer) tick and the American dog (wood) tick. However, many tick species are expanding their ranges and moving into areas where they have not been found historically. In Minnesota, we have seen increasing populations of the Lone Star tick, which is normally found throughout the southwest region of the United States.

Young ticks, called nymphs, are the size of a poppy seed. Adult deer ticks are the size of a sesame seed. Most ticks follow the same life cycle and feeding pattern:

  1. Larvae: A deer tick starts as a 6-legged larva, which does not transmit disease.
  2. Nymph: Most cases of tick-borne disease are caused by the nymph, which looks like a freckle or speck of dirt. The nymph feeds from May through July.
  3. Adult: The larger adult ticks feed in fall and early spring, and are easier to see and remove. After feeding on deer, the
    female lays her eggs, which hatch into larvae in May and June. 
Ticks can carry and transmit diseases that can be dangerous to humans and animals. Any species of tick can potentially transmit disease; therefore it is important to remove a tick as soon as possible so it doesn’t cause infection.
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For more information:
Centers for Disease Control
Tick Encounter

  1. Creating a Tick Safe Yard
  2. Protect Your Pets
Ticks and their hosts (including mice, chipmunks, and other small mammals) can be found in grassy, bushy areas around the outside of a home. These areas provide shelter from the sun, moisture, easy access to small mammals, and a place to hide – all important elements in promoting the tick life cycle. Fortunately, some easy clean up can greatly reduce the risk of encountering ticks while enjoying the outdoor space. Here are some tips for creating a tick-safe zone around the home:

  • Remove leaf litter
  • Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns
  • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas to restrict tick migration into recreational areas
  • Mow the lawn frequently
  • Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages small mammal nesting)
  • Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees
  • Discourage unwelcome animals (such as deer, raccoons, and stray dogs) from entering your yard
  • Consider applying an approved pesticide - always follow the label instructionsTick7
For more information see the Centers for Disease Control  or a tick handbook.