COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Warmer weather is finally here and with the rising temperatures comes the emergence of ticks that may carry dangerous diseases, and are now looking to feed.
"Ticks will be out looking for a blood meal," said Glen Needham, an entomologist and tick expert with Ohio State University Extension
, the outreach arm of the university's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences
. "We want people to understand there's a risk of getting sick from tick bites when they are outdoors, and that there are things they can do to keep themselves, their families and their pets safe."
Ticks are small arachnids that hang out along woodland edges, in woods, tall grass, weeds and underbrush. Like mosquitoes, ticks feed on the blood of birds, reptiles and mammals, including humans and pets. In doing so, ticks can transmit a variety of diseases, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Deer ticks and Lyme disease
Needham said researchers and public health authorities are paying particular attention to Lyme disease, which was rare in Ohio in the past but has seen a significant increase statewide in recent years. Lyme disease is transmitted by the blacklegged deer tick, whose first established population was discovered in Coshocton County in 2010.
May has been declared Lyme Disease Awareness Month throughout the U.S. to increase knowledge about this ailment and how to prevent it. Blacklegged deer ticks are found primarily in wooded areas, so hikers, hunters and others who frequent those places should be particularly cautious.
"Blacklegged deer ticks have been found in 56 Ohio counties and are now likely established in 26 of those counties, mostly east of I-71 where we have deciduous forest," Needham said. "Most people who get Lyme disease will get it from the nymphal or juvenile stage of the blacklegged deer tick, which is very small, the size of a poppy seed, and is active in spring and summer.
"This makes it harder to identify and to know you may have been exposed to the disease."