As temperatures rise and outdoor activities beckon, Florida residents are gearing up for another tick season. Ticks, those tiny but troublesome parasitic arachnids, pose a significant health risk due to the diseases they can transmit. Let’s dive into the types of ticks found in Florida, the diseases they carry, strategies to protect yourself, and the concerning impact of climate change on tick populations.

Tick Species in Florida

Several species of ticks call Florida home, with the most common ones being the black-legged tick, commonly called the “deer tick” (Ixodes scapularis), the long star tick (Amblyomma americanum), and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). Each species has its preferred habitats and hosts, but they all share one common trait: the potential to transmit harmful pathogens to humans and animals.

Tick-Borne Disease

Ticks are notorious vectors for various diseases, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia. While Lyme disease is commonly associated with black-legged ticks in other parts of the country, it’s less prevalent in Florida. However, other tick-borne illnesses pose significant risks to residents and visitors alike.

Protecting Yourself and Furry Friends from Ticks

Preventing tick bites is crucial for avoiding tick-borne diseases. Here are some strategies to minimize your risk:

Consider Using Tick Repellents: Using an insect repellant can help with tick prevention. Some brands that are healthier than others and come with natural ingredients that may be safe to apply to a pet’s coat such as Wondercide Flea & Tick. Repellants come in a variety of types so please do your homework and read the label to ensure its appropriate for your beloved fur-baby.

Wear Protective Clothing: Dress in light-colored clothing so that ticks are easy to spot. Tuck pants into socks and wear long sleeves, a hat, and closed toe shoes to reduce skin exposure to ticks. Consider treating outdoor gear with permethrin for added protection.

Perform Tick Checks: Thoroughly check your body, clothing, and pets for ticks after spending time outdoors. Pay close attention to hidden areas such as the scalp, behind the ears, around the waistband, and around the feet and ankles.

Use Tick Removal Tools: Keep handy tools such as the TickCheck Tick Remover Toolkit or the Tick Mitt to remove attached ticks safely and efficiently. Prompt removal reduces the risk of disease transmission. It’s also important to remove all clothing after coming inside and put them in a high-heat dryer to kill any ticks that may be present. Don’t forget to thoroughly check your pets for and ticks as they can easily blend into dark fur and find their way into sneaky places quickly. It’s also best to ensure your pets are on a tick prevention to ensure they are safe from tick bite diseases.

Create Tick-Safe Zones: Keep grass trimmed, remove leaf litter, and create a barrier or wood chips or gravel between wooded areas and your own lawn to deter ticks from entering your yard.

Warm Weather Tick Expansion: Warm weather fosters the distribution and lifecycle of tick species, leading to the expansion. Warmer temperatures and changes in precipitation patterns create favorable conditions for ticks to thrive and increase their populations. Milder winter temperatures are also allowing ticks to remain active year-round, prolonging the risk of tick-borne diseases.

As tick populations spread during the warmer months, it’s essential to stay informed and proactive about tick prevention strategies. By taking steps to protect yourself and your loved ones, you can enjoy the great outdoors while minimizing the risk of tick encounters and diseases. Stay safe out there!

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About the Author: Shillelagh Du Bay

Shillelagh is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a specialization in natural resource conservation. Their passion for sustainability and environmental science began in 2016 after switching to a vegan diet, which sparked an interest in factory farming’s environmental impact and anthropogenic effects on nature. After studying sustainability at Arizona State University, Shillelagh transitioned to environmental science to deepen their understanding of these topics. Their focus now is on natural resource conservation while maintaining a strong commitment to sustainable practices.

In addition to their studies, Shillelagh is a photography enthusiast with a particular interest in capturing landscapes and florals. Having spent the last two years exploring the White Mountains and East Coast while living in New England, they love being active outdoors with their partner and three dogs, whether hiking, swimming, or exploring new places. Find Shillelagh on Instagram at @themindfulgreen_.