I have had a number of calls concerning ticks this season. This unwanted critter is often found in our area. Ticks can be extremely hard to control in or around your house, especially if you have some areas of your property that are adjacent to other areas with native forages or shrubs. Ticks require certain environmental conditions to reproduce and certain habitats provide these specific conditions for ticks to survive. Research has demonstrated that ticks can be found more often in places known as “transition areas.” These transition areas are locations that have trees or shrubs that are adjacent to open grass areas. If you think about this - any normal landscapes in Oklahoma, especially for the eastern half of the state, have these transition areas. Some work has been done to demonstrate the usefulness of putting down wood chips (not mulch) along these areas to provide a boundary that limits ticks from coming into your yard.
Basically, the wood chip area decreases the favorability for ticks because it reduces the humidity in their microhabitats. The wood chip area can also be the site for a pesticide application in a more targeted manner. Another good tick suppression tactic is to keep your grass mowed down. A mown lawn allows for temperatures to increase rapidly and it also allows less humidity build-up within the grass canopy. Ticks can thrive in areas of high humidity and consistent temperatures.
There are two tick species abundant during this time of year in Oklahoma. The first is the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) which is probably the tick most commonly encountered by people during recreational activities in Oklahoma. The female can be easily distinguished from other ticks by the lone white spot on its back. This is considered a three-host tick, unfortunately all life stages can be found on humans. This tick is active from early spring through late fall in Oklahoma. It is known to transmit human ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and American Q fever. Of these, tularemia is largely vectored by this tick.