The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

The Student News Site of Niles West High School

Niles West News

Tick Talk: Ticks Recently Found in the Prairie

Susan Schram
The prairie during the spring season.

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the school year coming to an end, a new discovery has sparked both attention and concern among students and faculty alike: ticks in the prairie. Recent observations by students and faculty members alike have revealed the presence of the ticks in the school’s prairie, an area with an outdoor classroom near the south parking lot.

Thomas Jodelka shares some tips and tricks to keep yourself safe and to effectively prevent yourself from tick bites.

“The best way to prevent ticks would be to wear long pants and socks and closed-toed shoes. You can tuck your pants into your socks so the ticks do not have a way to crawl up your legs. You can wear a hat to decrease the chances of them getting into your hair. You could also wear insect repellent, which has been shown to keep ticks away as well. Once you return inside from an area that may have ticks, you should check your body for them. They typically move towards warmer areas of the body. You should also check your hair,” Jodelka said.

Susan Schram clears up some common misconceptions regarding ticks, while also communicating the reason why there is an increase in ticks this year.

“For years, we have encountered ticks in the prairie. These do not typically carry Lyme disease. There is a misconception that all ticks, which are arachnids, are vectors of diseases mainly because they are parasites and feed by attaching firmly to their host to suck blood. The current increase in ticks is due to an earlier and warmer spring season, a mild winter and longer, hot summers. These are the impacts of climate change and the increase in the average global temperature. There is also more northern movement of ticks because the southwest is actually getting increasingly dry due to droughts. Lastly, warmer climates allow earlier and more growth of vegetation that then attract host animals, such as herbivores like deer and mice,” Schram said.

According to Schram, ticks are actually common and it’s not very difficult to learn more about them.

“Ticks are everywhere. If you use your backyard, the neighborhood park, walk your dog or run in the forest preserve, you will more than likely encounter them. However, as aforementioned, using ‘bug spray,’ talking to your veterinarian about tick prevention products on your dog, doing a “tick check” when coming inside and keeping your own landscape tick ‘unfriendly’ are ways to decrease the tick population,” Schram said. “The Illinois DNR (Department of Natural Resources) is a good place to find general information identification and locations. The CDC can provide symptoms of potential diseases. So is it safe to go out to the prairie? That answer can only come from the person going out there. Education is the key to prevention.”

Although the ticks make an appearance every year, Chris Barnett speaks about the reasoning behind why the situation is different this year.

“Obviously the ticks are around every year. I think that the warm winter is why this has been a bad spring for ticks this year. This past winter was particularly mild, and we had some warm spells early in the spring. Illinois can expect more issues with ticks, mosquitoes and other fun little critters as climate change continues to worsen,” Barnett said.

Jodelka also shares his hopes for the tick population to decrease by the upcoming school year, as he believes learning in the prairie is an opportunity to take advantage of.

“I hope that [the ticks] numbers will decrease by next school year since so many classes use the natural area, particularly during the first semester. Regardless, it is important for everyone to know about the presence of ticks so that they can take the appropriate precautions,” Jodelka said.

Be sure to keep yourself safe from ticks and any other creatures that may cause harm this summer!

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