on the West Coast, we do things a little differently, and our ticks are
no exception. Their life cycles follow a different schedule from their
eastern cousins, with the peak season for adult Western Blacklegged Ticks (Ixodes pacificus) occurring in winter and early spring. This tick is the main vector for Lyme Disease in California.
you look closely along local trails, you may see adult ticks perched
precariously on the ends of twigs, leaves, or blades of grass. This
behavior is called questing. Since ticks can't run, jump, or fly, they
have to wait for dinner to arrive in the form of a person or animal
brushing against them while passing by. The tick quickly grabs hold and
comes along for the ride, crawling slowly over the animal's fur (or
person's clothing) until it finds its way to the skin and locates an
appetizing place to begin feeding.
Fortunately, this behavior
makes it possible to avoid most ticks and almost all tick bites.
Walking in the center of the trail and avoiding contact with trailside
vegetation keeps ticks from hitching a ride. Wearing long sleeves and
pants and tucking in clothing makes it hard for ticks to reach the
skin, and using an EPA-registered repellent or treating clothing with
permethrin adds another layer of protection.
When you get home
from spending time outdoors, check your pets, your gear, and yourself
for ticks. Putting clothing in the dryer for 15 minutes can kill any
ticks you may have missed, and taking a shower will help you locate any
ticks that may be hiding and rinse away any unattached ticks. You may
want to get a family member to help you check places you can't easily
see, like your back and behind your ears.
If you do get a tick,
don't panic! Removing attached ticks promptly reduces your risk of
being infected with any pathogens the tick might be carrying. Here's the safest way to remove a tick.