Deer Ticks – Emergence of Nymph Stage Ticks is Underway


Nymph stage deer ticks were found at sites in Yarmouth and Brewster today. As with many things this spring this is unusually early; normally we do not see this stage emerging until late May or early June. Adult stage dog ticks and a few adult stage deer ticks were found as well.

Deer ticks can carry the organisms that cause Lyme disease as well as Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis. Ticks can carry more than one of these. Cape Cod Cooperative Extension has fourteen sample sites on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. On average about 20 to 25% of nymph stage ticks tested positive for the Lyme bacteria at all 14 sites. Last year about 15% tested positive for the Babesiosis pathogen and about 10% carried the pathogen for Anaplasmosis. Nine percent of the ticks tested had two pathogens. Dog ticks do not carry any of these but they can transmit the organisms that cause tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Nymph stage ticks cause most of the confirmed cases of tick-borne illnesses. This is because they are about the size of a poppy seed. So they are difficult to see and their bite is hard to detect.

People should consider a 3 phase action plan: Personal protection, pet protection and yard protection.

Personal Protection – Tick checks after coming in from outdoors, tumble dry clothing. Treating footwear, socks and pants with permethrin is HIGHLY effective. It is carried by several stores on the Cape like the Powderhorn and Eastern Mountain Sports. Several garden centers are planning to stock it. It is available online from stores like Bass Pro Shop and is sold under a number of different brands like Sawyer, Bens and Permanone. Pre-treated clothing is available from Permethrin also repells/kills mosquitos.

Pet Protection – Products like K9 Advantix (dogs only) and Fronline Plus are effective. Advantage only controls fleas. A vaccine is available for dogs.

Yard Protection – If your yard borders woods, that is tick habitat…ticks prefer shady areas with high humidity. Nymph stage ticks are found in the leaf litter. A number of products can be applied to these areas to create a tick-free buffer zone. Deer ticks will not be found in the middle of the yard…they just do not survive that kind of environment.


There was no acorn crop in the fall of 2011 so as a result mouse populations crashed over the course of the winter. With fewer mice around the nymph stage ticks just emerging will have a longer opportunity to contact alternate hosts like people and pets.

There is no reason to not enjoy outdoor activities. Tick-borne illnesses are completely preventable. See or contact Larry Dapsis, Cape Cod Cooperative Extension Entomologist – (508)375-6642 or