Summer Safety Tips: All About Ticks

Katie is on vacation until late July. We’ll have a series of guest contributors filling in, and next up is entomologist NJ Renie.  Today he’s here to talk about ticks.

We live in a world chock-full of information about potential health risks. With all the noise it can be difficult, if not maddening, to determine which risks are serious and what, if anything, we can do them.

Booming wildlife populations, coupled with our increasing encroachment into wild areas, have led to an increased risk of tick borne diseases, including Lyme disease. The health risks are serious enough to draw considerable attention, but what it is less known is the secret to beating ticks: don’t get bit. Easier said than done, but the fewer chances you give ticks, the better your chances of staying healthy.

Whether you are enjoying the outdoors or working in it, it is important to limit your exposure to ticks as a fundamental part of your summer routine. Here’s how:

Keep your distance:

Ticks do not jump, hop, fly, or base jump off of tree branches. In fact, they lack the range of motion to achieve anything more than a crawl, but what they lack in spryness, they more than make up for in patience. A tick will shimmy up to the tip of tall grasses and low shrubs and wait, claws out, for an unsuspecting animal to pass within reach.

Woodland trails, with their steady supply of passing food and protection from intense sun and wind, are the ideal habitat for hungry ticks. When on a hike, bike, or hunt try to remain in the center of the trail in order to minimize your exposure. Also, try to avoid early morning and late evening, as they are a tick’s most active feeding times.

Photo by Jan Anders

Be a tough mark:

After attaching itself to your pants, socks, etc., a tick will look for a sheltered place in which to feed. Ideal locations include the hair, cuffs and collars, in and around the ears, and in the bellybutton. To make their search for safety tougher, wear closed toed shoes, long sleeves and pants, and a hat. Tucking in your shirt as well as tucking your pants into your socks (wear a very tight knit) will make it much more difficult for ticks to set up shop.

When you stop to rest, be sure to check for ticks. Ticks are dark in color, so light colored clothing will make them more readily visible. If a tick is found, do not squash it or touch it, as it may contain contaminated blood or harmful pathogens.

Wash that bug right out of your hair:

A quick shower will help to flush out any disengaged ticks. Immediately washing your clothing will dislodge most ticks, while the heat of a dryer will be sure to kill any that survive the wash.

Pull in the welcome mat:

Photo by Sami Sieranoja

Make your yard an unfriendly place for ticks. Regularly mow grassy areas and clear away brush. Deer, mice, birds, and other wildlife, as well as livestock and outdoor pets, are all common hosts of ticks.

While a fear of ticks is no reason to send Rover away for good, please be aware that the presence of additional food sources will always result in a greater number of ticks, thus requiring more vigilance on your part. A couple of Guinea fowl in the barnyard is a traditional fix for reducing tick populations.

Think of the kitties:

If you do have outdoor pets it is important to check them daily for ticks. Besides the risks to their health, a tick may decide to move from a pet to you.

Photo by Alan Turkus

It takes a steady hand:

A feeding tick will insert a barbed feeding tube into the skin. If you find a tick feeding, remove it by grasping this feeding tube as close to the skin as possible and pulling straight out in one slow, deliberate motion. Twisting or jerking could lead to breakage and infection.

Do not ever grasp, squeeze, burn, paint, grease, or damage the body of a tick. These actions may lead to an outflow of pathogens from the tick into the host. Once the tick has been removed, remember to dispose of it properly and do not forget to sterilize those tweezers.


These tips and precautions will limit your exposure to ticks and significantly decrease the likelihood of contracting a tick borne disease. The risks are real and very serious, but limiting your exposure is a common sense first step in protecting you and your family’s health.

If you have anything to add, please share!

top photo source
Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

Encouragement for living simpler, right in your inbox.

We share our stories as we simplify our lives - no guilt-trips, just love.

(no spam, promise. we hate it, too.)


  1. If I worried about ticks, we would never go anywhere! Our area is thick with them at different times of the year. My kids run free, barefoot through fields and yard and garden. We simply do a body check at night (and bathe daily, though because of grime and stink, not ticks)—though ticks often don’t make their appearance till morning, sneaky things—and if strange ailments come up, I know to think back over whether or not ticks might have had a role in it. So far they haven’t…

    • This is a great summary of our approach to them as well! We’ve removed well over 75 ticks so far this year — sometimes up to 5 or 6 at a time — and the only option for us would be to keep our kids inside from May – August (although this year’s tick season definitely seems to be dragging on and on and on). That’s really not an option at all, so we just do regular tick checks as well. The risk of Lyme disease is much higher once they’ve been attached for 36+ hours, so we just check regularly so that we never come anywhere close to that.

  2. While living in Connecticut in the early 80’s I had a tick bite that led to Lyme Disease. Bad stuff, for sure. Even here in Michigan, they have found ticks carrying it, so I am extra careful when working outside. Good tips!!!

  3. JJ: A check and bath are definitely sound practices.

    Cindy: Lyme Disease is awful. I have a friend that struggled with it for several years before getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I have another whose husband has never recovered! I think if people know what it does they are way more cautious.

  4. P.S. I see you’re a beekeeper. I’d love to read a post about Beekeeping 101! (Hint, hint.)

  5. Allison says:

    The best way by far that I have ever removed ticks was with liquid hand soap. Simply use a apply dab of hand soap and very gently rub the tick with a cotton ball. In less than 15 sec it will release itself. This is great for pets, wiggly kids and hard to reach places!

  6. Lyme is serious business! My husband was diagnosed almost 5 years ago now and has never felt quite the same since. His Lyme presented with lots of cognative trouble (he couldn’t focus enough to read or even hold a lengthy conversation), depression-like symptoms, trouble sleeping, as well as the more familar body pain. He never had a rash. The first years of our marriage were a struggle as he was so sick. This is not something you want your kiddos to have to deal with. We work hard to make sure that our daughter doesn’t get bit. Ever. We make sure to do a visual check every half hour when we’re out side and we look forward to getting chickens and guina fowl next spring. Thanks for a great post!

  7. I’m so happy you are sharing these tips on ticks. Ticks were a big issue when I lived in upstate New York. I know several people who have contracted lyme disease. It is no fun and some have never recovered. It’s very good you are covering this topic in such a clear, practical way. Thank you.

  8. JJ: If I’m asked back I might hit a bee-related topic (I have one in mind for late summer), but I think that BK101 would definitely push my word count into oblivion! Not to mention there are so many great BK sites already doing it better than I could.

    Allison: NEVER, EVER swab an engaged tick with anything! The irritation may cause them to expel their gut contents into the wound before they back out. The soap may work, but it increases the risk of disease considerably. It is unpleasant, but the absolute best method is to tweeze it out. Here’s a helpful diagram:

    Bergen: I’m so sorry to hear about your husband, but glad that he’s doing better. FYI–make sure you are OK with the noise of those guinea fowl first. They are tick hunters par excellence, but notorious noise-makers.

    SL: Thanks for reading. I hope that I’m living up to the blog’s high standards. Making effective organic choices relies on scientifically sound, practical information. The chemical control era has conditioned most of us to not only ignore such information, but to expect a quick fix in the form of a pill or a spray. We can always reduce our need for those or any other chemical inputs by initiating practical changes to our lifestyles and routines.

  9. As a person that is being treated for Lyme disease right now with Doxycolyne, I can tell you it’s a formidable disease even when it’s caught early! And the drug has some rough side effects as well.
    Thanks for this article.

Add Your Thoughts