Ask a Naturalist: Are there ticks in the Nature Study Area

July 28, 2020

Written by Sara Tabatabai

Questing tick Photo by USFWS Licensed by CC by 2.0

Question: Are there ticks in the Nature Area? 

Answer: Yes!

Adult ticks continue to be active in temperatures above freezing. In California, adult ticks are most common in fall and winter. Small immature, nymphal ticks are common in spring into summer and are the primary vector of Lyme disease to people. There are different kinds of ticks, but only the western black-legged tick transmits Lyme disease.

Ticks do not fly or jump onto people. Instead they wait at the end of a piece of grass “questing” or reaching out for a person or animal to brush against them. They may also be on logs, picnic tables, or rocks.  

How to Avoid Ticks

To protect yourself from ticks, stay in the middle of the trail and wear insect repellent and light-colored clothes so ticks are easy to spot on your clothing. Wear a long-sleeved shirt tucked into long pants and tuck your pants into your socks or boots. Check yourself for ticks for several days.  

How to Check for Ticks

Sometimes you can take all preventative measures and still have a tick find its way onto your clothing or skin. Always make sure to do a proper full-body tick check after being outdoors.

  1. Check all clothing, remove, and throw it into the wash. Ticks latch onto clothing from low-lying vegetation (e.g. grass, shrubs) so checking/removing pants is a good start.
  2. Check your body (and/or your child’s body). Ticks tend to hide in crevices so be sure to especially check under the arms, behind and inside ears, around the hairline, through the scalp, behind knees and toes, inside belly buttons, and around the waist.
  3. Take a warm shower. This could help dislodge any ticks you missed that have yet to attach to skin. This also provides another opportunity for you to do one last check.

How to Remove a Tick

If you find a tick embedded in your skin, follow these steps to remove it properly and safely

  1. Use fine-tipped tweezer and grasp it as close to the skin as possible.
  2. Apply steady, even pressure and pull straight out until the entire tick is pulled free.
  3. Wash the bite with antiseptic or rubbing alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water.
  4. Write down the date and location on the body where the tick was discovered and call your doctor to determine next steps and any symptoms to look out for. Saving the tick in a sealed container may also be helpful to your doctor or health department if you get sick or develop a rash after a tick bite.
  5. Keep an eye out for any symptoms of Lyme Disease and/or a rash after a tick bite.
  6. Do not use insecticides, lighted matches, gasoline, petroleum jelly or liquid soaps to remove ticks as these techniques may cause injury and are usually ineffective. 

    "Black-Legged Tick" by The NYSIPM Image Gallery is licensed under CC BY 2.0

More resources

To learn more about how to safely remove a tick attached to your skin, check out the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) for step-by-step instructions with helpful visuals 

Learn more about ticks in general, how to prevent bites, learn about symptoms and when to see a doctor, and more on the CDC’s website.