Rocky Mountain ticks, also called wood ticks, can pose serious problems for American homeowners. Here are four things you need to know about them.
What do they look like?
If Rocky Mountain ticks haven't fed recently, they are brown and about 1/8" long. After they've taken a blood meal, they take on a greyish color and swell to sizes of up to 5/8". Their bodies are oval and flattened and they have eight legs.
Where do they live?
Rocky Mountain ticks are found in the Rocky Mountains region of the United States, typically at elevations between 4,000 and 10,500 feet. You can find them in much of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. They can also be found in the northern parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and California.
Within their range, you can find them in shrub lands, grasslands, and in wooded areas. In your backyard, you can find them hiding in long grass or in your garden. They hide in foliage so that they can easily attach to people or animals that brush against the plants.
Why are they pests?
Rocky Mountain ticks can be infected with rickettsia rickettsii, the bacteria responsible for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. If an infected tick bites you, it can pass its bacteria to you. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a serious illness that causes a spotted rash, headache, fever, and other unpleasant symptoms, and it can kill you if you don't seek treatment. This is why it's so important to keep Rocky Mountain ticks out of your backyard.
How can you keep them away?
The easiest way to keep these ticks away is to make sure your backyard isn't a good habitat for them. Keep your grass cut short, get rid of weeds and thick shrubs, and remove leaf litter, wood piles, and other organic materials that ticks can hide beneath.
Rocky Mountain ticks feed on large mammals like deer and can be introduced to your yard by these animals. If you live in an area with a lot of deer or other wildlife, you should build a fence around your backyard to keep them out.
Residual insecticides can also be helpful. These products keep working for some length of time after application; the package directions will tell you how often you should re-apply the insecticides. Make sure to choose a product that is designed to kill ticks, and apply them around foliage and around the perimeter of your property.
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