Ticks are parasites which feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Ticks can be
found on most wooded or forested areas throughout the world. They are especially common in areas where there are deer
trails or horse paths. Often they are found in tall grass where they will wait to attach to a passing host. They will generally
drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. In some cases, ticks will live for some time on the blood of an
animal. Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area, known as a hypostome, that allows them to anchor
themselves firmly in place while feeding. The hypostome has a series of barbs angled back, which is why they are so
difficult to remove once they have penetrated a host.
Ticks are an important vector for diseases. Some of the more common diseases that can be contracted from a tick bite
include: Echrichiosis, Lyme Disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Tularemia.
There are steps you can take to reduce your exposure to ticks. If you go into a wooded area, it is best to wear protective
clothing and apply insect repellent containing 10-30% DEET primarily to your clothes. Apply sparingly to bare skin areas.
Frequently check yourself for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease until they have been
attached four or more hours. Also, if your pets spend time outdoors, be sure to check them for ticks.
Analyzing your property can also be effective tick protection. The object of the analysis is to make areas of your property
less hospitable to deer, mice, and ticks. It is not necessary that all areas of your property be made tick safe, just
the areas your family uses for activities.
Notice how the back yard above is divided into a "tick safe zone" and a "tick zone". The tick safe zone is for active
recreation, flower gardening, the mailbox, driveway, and a shed. Most of it will be in the sun and have lawn as ground
The tick zone is for buffer planting, planting for wildlife, and perhaps a compost pile. Both zones can co-exist on one
property as long as they are separated by a barrier and a migration zone.
For more information on ticks, visit the Illinois Department of Public Health website.
Tick Identification Material