While there are seasonal differences in how many ticks you're going to see in your Southwest Florida yard, there really is no such thing as tick season in Florida. Ticks can be active all year long in our tropical climate. That means tick-borne diseases are always a threat, no matter what time of year it is. It is important that every resident be aware of the conditions that can promote tick infestations all year.
If you want to protect your family from tick-borne diseases, it is important to understand the relationship between wild animals and ticks. While ticks are parasites that take a host animal, they don't stay with their first host. They develop and fall off. If they fall off in your yard, they can be picked up by your pets or by you or someone else in your home.
Most people don't realize that birds can carry ticks into a yard. If you have bird feeders, it is a good idea to move them away from your foundation perimeter. As birds zip around on your property and hop on the ground in search of seeds, they can drop ticks in your yard. Black-legged ticks are a common tick species spread by birds, and black-legged ticks are linked to Lyme disease.
If mice and rats come into your yard, they can leave ticks in your landscaping and shaded locations. But it is even worse when they chew their way into your home. A single mouse can have as many as 100 seed ticks on its body. When those seed ticks develop and fall off inside your home, you're going to be in trouble. The link between mice and ticks is so strong, researchers are able to accurately predict Lyme disease cases by the number of mouse infestations recorded from the previous year.
When ticks are dropped in your yard, it is usually in vegetation. Animals hide in vegetation. But, more than this, ticks are drawn to vegetation because they require high humidity to survive. It is important that you take steps to keep your landscaping and topsoil as dry as possible. Also, consider using gravel or wood chips in your landscaping, ticks have sensitive feet and do not prefer to walk over these materials.
If you have a dog or cat that goes out into the yard frequently, you have a higher chance of a tick infestation. Many tick species are drawn to furry animals. It is important that you have veterinarian-prescribed tick products to ward off ticks and be sure to perform routine inspections for ticks on your pets. Check the ears and between the toes first. These are common locations of attachment. When you pet your dog or cat, be aware of any bumps you feel on their skin. This could be an engorged tick. Early removal can protect your pet and help to prevent an infestation.
This last one has less to do with what can cause an infestation and more to do with critical facts you should know about different tick species in Southwest Florida.
- Lone Star ticks are a tick that readily attaches to humans. If you have a tick climb on you, it is usually going to be one of these. You can identify this tick by the white dot on its back. These ticks are strongly linked to Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI) but they can spread other diseases as well.
- Brown dog ticks prefer canines and don't prefer humans, but this tick species is the only species that can complete its entire life cycle indoors. That means they can infest your home for good. The longer they infest, the more likely you are to be bitten. Brown dog ticks spread several diseases but are notably dangerous for their connection to the spread of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF).
- American dog ticks prefer canines but will readily attach to humans. Most often it is adult ticks that feed on humans. Nymphs prefer small animals such as mice, rats and squirrels. These ticks are strongly linked to RMSF and tick paralysis syndrome.
- Black-legged ticks, also called deer ticks, are known for their spread of Lyme disease. Lyme is a serious disease that can lead to lifelong medical complications if it is not treated early.
Ticks are dangerous pests but the threat they pose can be significantly mitigated with ongoing residential pest control service. For service in the Southern Tampa area, reach out to Keller's Pest Control. We offer industry-leading control for ticks and other Florida pest threats.