All of our recent rains have resulted in tall grasses, a plethora of wildflowers, and trees and shrubs with a tremendous amount of new growth. All of this great vegetation, along with our itch to get out and enjoy the sunshine, can put us in direct contact with biting insects — specifically ticks and mosquitoes. This week’s article will provide information on ticks in Colorado and next week’s will focus on managing mosquitoes and avoiding their bites.
Ticks are blood-feeding parasites of animals found throughout Colorado and are particularly common at higher elevations. They are most important because they can transmit diseases such as Colorado tick fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and relapsing fever. Lyme disease is an important tick-borne disease in much of the eastern United States, however, ticks known to transmit it are not known to occur in Colorado and no confirmed cases have originated in the state.
Almost all human encounters with ticks involve either the Rocky Mountain wood tick or the closely related American dog tick. Ticks are most active in spring and early summer and concentrate where their animal hosts most commonly travel. This includes brushy areas along the edges of fields and woodlands or commonly traveled paths through grassy areas and shrub lands. Ticks are highly sensitive to carbon dioxide, which is exhaled by animals as they breathe, and seek it out. They often are poised at the top of vegetation so they can readily cling to passing animals. One way to avoid tick bites is to avoid these commonly inhabited areas. Other ways to avoid tick bites include the following: