Warmer temperatures have more people outside, but it’s also contributing to more tick activity in Saskatchewan.
As anecdotal reports of the pests increase provincewide, people are taking measures to protect themselves from bites and potential infections.
Saskatchewan’s entomologist, Phil Curry, spoke with Gormley on Friday to provide some safety tips on ticks.
He recommends people walking in grassland areas and forests should wear long sleeves, long pants and closed-toe shoes.
“The ticks will crawl up on the edge of grass or shrubbery,” he said. “They’ll wait until someone walks by, or an animal walks by, and grab on to you.”
Curry said tick levels have been rising in recent years, and the tiny bugs have been found farther north.
“American dog ticks used to just be found in southeast Saskatchewan. Now it’s found right through all of the parklands and wooded areas across southern Saskatchewan,” he said.
Dog ticks are usually found between five and 15 millimetres in length, with eight legs and reddish-brown bodies. Curry said they “blood feed” on animal hosts such as dogs or humans by biting into the skin and adhering themselves to the body.
Curry noted there’s usually enough time to get a tick off of your body before the bite, even after you’ve arrived indoors.
“You’ll often find them crawling up your pantleg or trying to find a good place to take a blood meal,” he said. “They’re very slow moving, so you can often see them.”
Curry said the province has also seen increased numbers in deer ticks over the past decade. The smaller, black-legged ticks can be more dangerous due to a possibility of the pests carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease — an infection which can cause pain, swelling and memory loss.
He told 650 CKOM the province has documented 65 deer ticks in grasslands and wooded areas over the past 10 years.
Curry added it’s difficult for people to feel a tick bite, because the bug applies a saliva with anesthetic properties before piercing the skin. If a tick has already attached itself, he said people shouldn’t rip it off or squash it.
“You don’t want to break the head or mouth parts,” he said. “It’s very important not to squeeze or crush or puncture the tick, in case it might stay embedded in the skin.”
Instead of using bare hands, Curry recommends using fine-tipped tweezers or a “tick key” to slowly pull upward and out with a firm steady pressure to remove the tick.
He also said people shouldn’t use matches or Vaseline to try and dislodge the bug.