How to deal with the new tick on the block

Published 7:59 pm Friday, July 6, 2018

Just when you thought it was safe to go outside a new bully shows up on the block.  Last year this critter from New Zealand and Australia showed up for the first time in North America. Originally from Asia, the “Longhorned Tick” became established in Australia and New Zealand over 100 years ago. It became a major problem for sheep and cattle farmers.

Longhorned Ticks vary their cuisine by feeding on horses, small ruminants, dogs, cats, wildlife and of course, humans. It first showed up on a farm in New Jersey and despite control measures, it overwintered and spread to Virginia, West Virginia and Arkansas. It has figured out how to defy containment.

Why is this tick becoming public enemy number one? Since it is not native to North America, there are no natural controls such as predators or parasites to keep it in check.

A particular problem that will arise is that none of our livestock, pets and wildlife have developed any natural resistance to longhorned ticks.

Usually when a species becomes a problem, it has to do with sex. In this case, a female longhorned tick reproduces without a male. The name for this is parthenogenetic. She can have 2000 baby ticks at a time. Populations can explode rapidly.

They transmit several animal disease rapidly, can damage the skin and large populations can produce anemia, lack of iron, particularly in young animals.

How can you identify these blood suckers? They look very similar to our native ticks, but the key is numbers.

Since they rapidly reproduce, a typical animal will have hundreds of ticks feeding on them. Pull off at least a dozen and place in a small container containing rubbing alcohol and bring it the extension office. Treat the animal to kill the remaining ticks.

It would be great if longhorned ticks would leave Georgia off their itinerary, but just in case we don’t want to miss them if they show up.

How do you prevent tick bites? Avoid areas where vegetation may rub against your clothing or skin. Ticks can’t jump, fly or climb very high, so they latch on with their hook-like claws as your walk by. Tuck your pants into your socks, your shirt into your pants and button your shirt.

Shorts are a no-no. You want to force the ticks to climb upward toward your face where you can spot them quickly without them finding a good spot to get latched on.

Spray your clothing and skin with a repellent containing “deet.” Repellents containing the insecticide permethrin can be used on clothing only.

Check for ticks twice a day. The longer the tick feeds on you, the greater the chance of transmitting disease. Early removal is good prevention.

Use tweezers to pull the tick straight out without twisting and leaving mouthparts that might cause infection. Forget using a match. You don’t need to treat a burn as well.

I carry a set of “Uncle Bill’s Sliver Grippers” on my keychain. Scrub with soap and a washcloth thoroughly when you bathe.

It takes ticks 24 hours to transmit a disease so make sure you remove them in a timely manner. Disinfect the bite and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and hot water.

If we wish to enjoy the great outdoors either gardening, camping or hiking, we must learn how to deal with the predators out there, no matter how small.

What’s going on in extension?

Market on Main: Every Saturday Morning from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Just off LaFayette Square. The freshest produce in Troup County.4MGEV Meeting: 7 p.m. Thursday at the extension office.

Troup County Association of Beekeepers: Monday, 7 p.m. at the Ag Center.

If you have any questions or concerns, stop by or call the office.

The Troup County Extension office is located at 144 Sam Walker Drive, LaGrange, GA. 30240 (706) 883-1675. It’s open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to  5 p.m.