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Watch for Ticks - Lyme Disease Moving West in ND (5/18/17)

With warmer spring weather, ticks are starting to get active and looking for hosts to feed on.

Watch for Ticks - Lyme Disease Moving West in ND

With warmer spring weather, ticks are starting to get active and looking for hosts to feed on. Two common ticks in North Dakota include the smaller black legged tick (or deer tick), Ixodes scapularis, and the larger dog ticks, Dermacentor variabilis. Ixodes scapularis is the tick species that vectors Lyme disease (see photographs). Ticks can be a significant threat to anyone’s health if you enjoy hiking, camping, hunting, playing or working outside in undisturbed grassy or wooded areas.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the United States. In 2015, it was the sixth most common Nationally Notifiable Disease and about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year – about 10 times as many as are officially reported. Lyme disease is concentrated in 14 states in the Northeast and upper Midwest. However, Ixodes scapularis is moving further west in North Dakota and is considered established in eastern North Dakota. The North Dakota Department of Health confirmed 17 cases of Lyme disease in seven counties in 2016: Barnes, Burleigh, Cass, Grand Forks, McIntosh, Stark and Ward counties. The number of positive and confirmed records of Lyme disease in North Dakota has increased since 2005.




Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Symptoms of Lyme disease includes: Bull’s eye rash, headache, fever and fatigue. In a worst case scenario, infections can cause arthritic joints, and affect the nervous system causing facial paralysis, and spinal cord, brain or heart problems. Lyme disease must be treated immediately with antibiotics. It can take 2 to 3 weeks to recovery if treated early. The later you wait for treatment; your symptoms will become more severe and more difficult to cure. For more information, please see the CDC website:


                The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following strategies for field workers and preventing tick bites:

  • Minimizing Direct Contact with Ticks by avoiding woody and high grass areas and walking in center of trails, if possible. Ticks are most active in May through August in North Dakota.
  • Use repellent with 20-30% DEET (N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide) on exposed skin and clothing. This should provide several hours of protection. Or wear clothing treated with permethrin.
  • Quickly find and remove any ticks from body by using a tweezers. Grasp tick close to skin and pull straight up to avoid breaking off the tick’s mouthparts in the skin. Clean bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water. Apply an antiseptic to the bite site.
  • Inspect yourself every 2-3 hours to find any ticks crawling on you and to remove them before they attach to feed on your blood. Ticks like to hides in hair, behind ears and other areas that may be difficult to inspect.
  • Wash any clothing that you were wearing soon and then dry in high heat for an hour to kill any ticks. Otherwise, ticks can attach to you later after hitchhiking on your clothes into home.
  • Reduce tick habitat near home.
    • Keep lawns mowed around home.
    • Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns, patio or play areas and wooded areas to prevent tick movement.
    • Exclude wildlife (especially deer) that may be carrying ticks into your yard.
    • Some insecticides registered for control of ticks by homeowners in residential areas include: carbaryl (Sevin®), cyfluthrin (Tempo®, Powerforce™), permethrin (Astro®, Ortho® products, Bonide® products), and pyrethrin (Pyrenone®, Kicker®). Always read and follow the EPA approved label on the product container.


      Janet J. Knodel
    Extension Entomologist

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