It is my honor to serve as your state senator, but as many of you may know, I also have a day job. I work in the University of Maine Cooperative Extension as the  Pest Management Specialist and Coordinator of the new Diagnostic and Research Lab, where I work on research and outreach related to pest management. One subject I’ve become very familiar with through this work is ticks, and these perennial pests have increasingly become a public health concern for state officials.

Maine is home to many different kinds of ticks. The deer tick is one of the most common, and the only regularly encountered species of tick that we know of which carries Lyme disease in Maine. It can also carry anaplasmosis, babesiosis and deer tick virus, all of which can be serious.

In the past few years, these ticks have slowly migrated further and further northward, bringing these diseases with them. A report to the Maine Legislature in 2018 showed that in 2010, only Lincoln and Knox counties had more than 75 cases of Lyme disease per 100,000 residents, while in 2017 all counties except Franklin, Piscataquis, Penobscot and Aroostook counties exceeded that rate. Incidences of other tick-borne disease have increased as well. The rainy spring we’ve had this year has made conditions ripe for an abundance of ticks this summer.

As tick populations expand northward, they may become a bigger problem in our area than they have been in the past. We should all be aware of the possibility of contracting a tick-borne disease and take steps to safeguard against ticks, including using a CDC-recommended and EPA-approved repellent containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE), para-menthane-diol (PMD) or 2-undecanon. It’s also crucial to check yourself for ticks after you go outside, particularly in tick-rich habitats such as long grass, brush and weeds; and treating your animals with tick preventative product approved by your veterinarian.

You can also take more long-term measures to guard against ticks, such as treating your clothing with products containing 0.5% permethrin. Permethrin can be used to treat boots, clothing and camping gear and remain protective through several washings. Alternatively, you can buy permethrin-treated clothing and gear. You can also cut back plantings around your yard, as they can make very good tick habitats.

If you find a tick and want to have it identified or tested for Lyme or another disease, you can submit it to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Tick Lab by completing an online form at https://ticktesting.umaine.edu/entersample.php. Once you have completed the form, you will get a sample number, which you should write on a sealable container (preferably a plastic bag). Then put the tick in the container, seal it and mail it to:

UMaine Extension Diagnostic & Research Lab

ATTN: Tick Lab

17 Godfrey Drive

Orono, ME 04473-3692

You should also put your sample number on the envelope that you mail in.

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, send me an email at [email protected] or call my office at (207) 287-1515. Remember, I work for you.

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