Are Ticks Worse This Year?

While everyone has an opinion about "how bad" the ticks are in any given, the bottom line is there is no state-wide survey or census to measure tick abundance.  All we have are people’s perceptions, and those vary all over the place!  That’s in part because tick populations are highly variable from place to place and from moment to moment depending on weather and other conditions.  Experiencing a large number of ticks on you or your dog after being outdoors is largely just the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

It is our experience talking to many callers from around the state each year that for each person who asks “why are there so many ticks this year?” there will be an equal number of callers who ask “why aren’t there so many ticks this year?”  This leads to the somewhat cynical conclusion that on a statewide basis, every year is an average year for ticks though individual locations may be far above or far below average at the time someone was in the locale to “check” for ticks.

The answer to the question, "Are the ticks worse this year?" is, "It depends."

Other questions about ticks:

  1. What ticks are common in Iowa and how do I recognize them?  See ISU pamphlet PM 2036, "Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in Iowa" available from the ISU Extension store.    Ticks may be submitted for identification by the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic.  Send a photo or sample as described on the Clinic web page.
  2. How do I control ticks in my back yard and landscape?  Ticks are rarely in lawns and high maintenance landscapes.  Instead, ticks are most abundant in humid areas of tall grass, weeds and shrubs where there is an abundant food supply from small mammals.  For more tick control considerations see the HHPN from June 9, 2010.   
  3. Does ISU still want tick samples from around the state?  Yes, ticks are still collected for a state-wide surveillance program. 
  4. Can you test my tick for Lyme disease?   ISU does not test ticks for Lyme disease.  Ticks submitted to the Plant & Insect Diagnostic Clinic that are identified as blacklegged ticks (aka "deer ticks") are sent to the Iowa Hygienic Lab in Iowa City for Lyme disease testing.  However, the results of these tests are compiled for research purposes and are not returned to the person who submitted the tick or to their health care provider.  Please speak with your physician and veterinarian about the risk of Lyme disease.  To learn more about Lyme disease see the CDC website
  5. How should attached ticks be removed?  Grasp the tick firmly and as close to the skin as possible with fine-tipped tweezers and pull straight upward as shown in the drawings below.  Do not use nail polish, petroleum jelly, matches or cigarettes in a misguided effort to make the tick "back out" of your skin.



Tick removal process. Drawing from


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