Deer ticks have become a huge concern for Onondaga County residents as they carry Lyme disease and humans may contract the disease through tick bites. Deer ticks are also known as blacklegged ticks and are often misidentified as other species of tick. Unfed adult female blacklegged ticks are flattened and approximately 3-5 millimeters (mm) long and are colored red-brown. Adult males are smaller than females and are uniformly brown in color. Nymphs are between 1-2 mm long (about the size of a pin head) with 8 legs and larvae are less than 1 mm long (about the size of a poppy seed) and have only 6 legs.
Ticks feed on multiple hosts, including mice, chipmunks, deer and humans. Lyme disease researchers are generally concerned about nymphs, which cause about 80 percent of Lyme disease cases in humans, according to the Albany County Health Department. Between 40 and 50 percent of ticks collected and tests in Central New York carry the Lyme disease bacterium, and this rate is ever-increasing.
In East Syracuse and DeWitt, the Syracuse-Onondaga County Urban Deer Task Force has been researching ways to reduce human-deer contact and the spread of Lyme disease. Because deer are the largest vector contributing to the spread of Lyme disease-carrying blacklegged ticks, management efforts have been targeting deer populations for management. White-footed mice are also carriers of blacklegged ticks.
Cornell Cooperative Extension has proposed a strategy called Integrated Pest Management, which is a sustainable management method that brings together biological, cultural, mechanical and chemical options to manage pests that minimize environmental, health, and economic risks. Some management methods include inspection (tick surveillance), identification, analysis and planning, population reduction (physical, cultural, biological, and chemical controls), monitoring (survey and sample), and record keeping.