Our entire families are enjoying the weather – dogs, kids, parents, and even grandparents are frolicking over grass that only weeks ago was snow. But hanging out in that grass are ticks – the little vampiric bugs that the media is teaching us to fear.
Ticks are something we should be aware of – particularly in regions like Ontario, where the prevalence of Lyme disease is seemingly increasing. Having the right information, of course, is the best place to start. Here are four things you should know about ticks:
1. Ticks actually matter in the ecosystem. We’re starting out with the one you don’t want to hear. While Sicilian-esque threats of violence against generations may be common among those who pull ticks from dogs or family members regularly, the little buggers do play an important role in nature. The New York Times reported in an article that deer ticks act as a source of nutrition for many species of birds, but more significantly, ticks act as vital players in the ecological game of population control. When a species hits carrying capacity – the upper threshold of an environment’s ability to sustainably provide resources – disease can be a primary factor in reducing population, and ticks play a major role in moving diseases around.
2. There are 40 species of ticks in Canada – but only three can cause Lyme disease. The Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation states that the bacteria that leads to Lyme disease (Borrelia) is only found in three types of ticks common to Canada – the Deer Tick, Western Black-legged Tick, and Ixodes Angustus (which has no common name). Their website also has a great tick identification page that can help you figure out which tick you’ve seen.
3. The best way to remove a tick is the simplest way. There are a lot of cool ways to remove a tick that involve MacGyver-like ingenuity and various household items. But the top sources – including Health Canada and the US Centres for Disease Control – recommend using the tried and tested method, which also happens to be the fastest: tweezers. The advice is to use clean tweezers to pull the tick straight out (grasping it as close to the skin as possible) and thoroughly washing the area, your tools, and hands afterwards. If part of the tick remained behind, use the tweezers to remove it. The goal is to get the tick out as fast as possible, rather than give it more opportunity to potentially transfer bacteria.
4. Fur-bearers help keep tick populations down. That’s right – if you needed MORE reason to love fur-bearing animals, we’ve just found one for you. Possums and foxes are both recognized for playing a major role in keeping tick populations low, as they are the best hunters of animals that ticks use to get around (suck as mice, rats, and so on). These two fur-bearers, who we work to protect as part of our regular campaigns, will help keep you tick free this spring and summer!
Ticks are gross, and we don’t really like them. Of course, we don’t need to like them to know they’re part of a healthy ecosystem. But knowing how to keep our families safe from the potential diseases they can pass on is important – so please share this information and enjoy the great outdoors without fear!