September 21, 2000 | By: Laura Skillman

The lone star tick has been plaguing western Kentucky homeowners throughout the summer and until frost will continue to be bothersome.

Also, without a cold winter or winters, the tick population isn't likely to decline soon.

The young ticks are often called deer ticks by locals but are not the deer ticks that are a vector for Lyme disease. That tick is not known to occur in Kentucky, said Doug Johnson, University of Kentucky Extension entomologist. This species is capable of carrying other diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever but the chance of contracting a tick-borne disease is very, very small, according to Johnson.

Generally, a tick bite will result in a small reaction such as itching and irritation, but some people are more sensitive than others and small children may be even more sensitive. If prolonged or unusual symptoms occur contact a physician immediately and be sure to mention the tick bite.

Johnson, who is based at the UK Research and Education Center in Princeton, has had a number of homeowners contact him with questions about the tick population.

Controlling the tick can be difficult for homeowners, especially where the lone star tick has large populations, Johnson said. The population seems to be especially large this year but no one knows why.

Johnson said the large populations may be the combined result of very warm winters for the past four years, very large wild mammal populations and a nice moist summer. What is needed, Johnson said, is a series of cold winters to reduce the populations.

Johnson offers some suggestions to homeowners on how to control the ticks in their yards.

Before starting a large scale control, make sure the ticks are widely distributed on the property. To do this, drag a 3-foot by 3-foot piece of white flannel or cotton cloth across the area, especially along edges where vegetation is over grown. The tiny but darker ticks will standout against the cloth.

If ticks are widely distributed, you will need to apply a broadcast spray. This spray will need to be evenly distributed across the affected area and requires lots of water, he said.

The No. 1 reason for failure of tick control is inadequate wetting of foliage and poor coverage of the area, Johnson said. No matter what insecticide is used, it must be put on with a large volume of water and evenly distributed.

The grass and foliage needs to be soaked with particular attention paid to any edges where the lawn meets a rough or wooded area.

If you can identify a particular source, you may be able to apply a spot treatment instead of treating the entire area.

For more information on ticks in Kentucky, visit your county Extension office and ask for publications ENT-35, Ticks & Diseases in Kentucky and Entfact-618, Ticks and Disease: Answers to Often Asked Questions.


Doug Johnson, (270) 365-7541