Top half: From left, a female black-legged tick, groundhog tick, and dog tick. Bottom: From top, an engorged female dog tick, and engorged female black-legged tick. Photos courtesy of https://novascotia.ca/ticksafety/

As the temperature rises, many of us will be spending more time enjoying the outdoors in northern Nova Scotia. 

It is important to take steps to reduce the risk of being bitten by a tick.

Nova Scotia is a suitable climate for many types of ticks. The black-legged tick (also called the deer tick) can carry and transmit the bacterial infection that causes Lyme disease. This infection initially appears as a rash near the tick bite. It may look like a bulls-eye target, and it usually appears 7-10 days after the bite. It can show up approximately 3-30 days afterward. Infected individuals also can experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, headaches, tiredness, stiff neck, and joint and muscle pain. If identified early by a health care professional, it can be treated with antibiotics.  

Here are some things you can do to help prevent tick bites and Lyme disease:

Recognizing what a black-legged tick looks like is an important first step. Black-legged ticks are much smaller than dog ticks. They have no white markings on the large part of the body; whereas dog ticks usually have white markings or silver colored spots. Unattached ticks can also vary in size depending on the stage of their life cycle. Very small (young) ticks, called nymphs, can be the same size as a poppy seed. Larger adult male and female ticks are similar in size to a sesame seed. 

Black-legged ticks are found throughout our province, and northern Nova Scotia is now considered a higher risk area for Lyme disease. These types of ticks thrive in damp woods and forests where there is shade and leaf litter to provide cover. It is important to note that black-legged ticks can’t jump or fly. They attach to their host by climbing on plants and waiting for the host to rub against them. They then climb onto the host body and try to attach and feed.

Adult black-legged ticks are most active in the spring and fall. They can remain active until the first snowfall or until the air temperatures are consistently below 4°C. Larvae and nymphs (younger ticks) are usually more active in the spring and summer.  

You can protect yourself from ticks by using insect repellent that contains DEET or Icaridin. Follow the directions on the package carefully. DEET use is different for different ages. Do not use DEET or Icaridin on infants less than six months old.

If you do find a tick attached to you or someone else, remove the tick as soon as possible to help prevent the transmission of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. 

Karen Casey is the MLA for Colchester North.