May is the perfect month in Maine for gardening, hiking, afternoon strolls — and the annoying surge of ticks.

Midcoast residents shared tips on social media last week on how to combat the disease-carrying critters. Some residents recommended spraying your lawn with bee- and pet-friendly chemicals, wearing natural repellents and long clothing; others suggested buying chickens to gobble up the pests.

“I carry a little roller of tea tree oil with me,” said Vicki Wilson of Bath in a Facebook post. “The roller makes it easy to apply, and I put it all around the bottoms of my shoes and up my legs. Knock on wood, I have not found a tick in over 20 years.”

“Wear lighter color clothing; you will see them better. And carry a tick tool to remove them,” suggested Pamela Mixer.

Carey Hotaling of Freeport suggested purchasing insect-repellent clothing treated with permethrin — a synthetic version of a chemical naturally produced by daisies.

An adult male dog tick found during a tick surveillance sweep in 2019. Dee Menear / Advertiser Democrat file photo

There are 15 species of ticks in Maine. The most common are the black-legged tick (deer tick) and the American dog tick (wood tick), varying in size and color. The parasite attaches itself to a human or animal, drinking its blood and potentially passing dangerous pathogens like Lyme disease. The illness can cause fatigue, skin rash, fever and headache. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause damage to the joints, heart and nervous system.

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“Lyme disease is the most commonly reported vector-borne disease in the U.S., and reported cases have been steadily increasing throughout much of the state,” according to a report from the University of Maine Tick Lab.

Last year, the university received 5,274 ticks from 380 towns in Maine to be tested for diseases, and 51.2% tested positive for at least one pathogen.

Tick Lab Coordinator Griffin Dill said the lab has received fewer deer ticks this year, most likely due to the cold weather in March and April, but said the number of dog ticks submitted has increased. Dill said, unlike deer ticks, dog ticks are able to survive in open and exposed locations like lawns.

“To protect yourself from ticks, create a barrier using protective clothing and EPA-recommended repellents such as DEET or picaridin. Clothing and gear can be treated with permethrin,” Dill said. “When returning indoors, be sure to check yourself, your children and your pets thoroughly for ticks.”

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