Ticks hold onto vegetation waiting for a host to pass by - a behavior known as questing.

Blacklegged tick nymphs are the size of a poppy seed.

engorged lone star tick adult
Image by NYS IPM

Ticks, like this lone star tick, engorged with blood are more difficult to identify.

Tick Talk

Ticks and tick-borne diseases have become a significant public health issue in New York, with numerous tick species and diseases currently present and spreading within the state and region.More ticks in more places also increases your risk of tick encounters and the disease-causing pathogens they inject during their blood meal.

Tick-borne diseases in New York include:

Different species of ticks can transmit different pathogens, so identifying the tick species is important. After identification, the next question is whether the tick should be tested. We follow the CDC recommendation of not having the tick tested for diagnostic purposes. The reasons include:

  • Positive results showing that the tick contains a disease-causing organism do not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
  • Negative results can lead to false assurance. You may have been unknowingly bitten by a different tick that was infected.
  • If you have been infected, you will probably develop symptoms before results of the tick test are available. If you do become ill, you should not wait for tick testing results before beginning appropriate treatment.

There IS a community-science benefit to having a tick tested. The Thangamani Lab in the SUNY Upstate Medical University is investigating the geographic expansion of ticks and tick-borne diseases in New York. When funding allows, they are conducting free tick testing for research purposes.

Tick saliva can also impact people, including alpha-gal allergy caused by lone star tick bites and tick paralysis, mostly attributed to female American dog ticks.

But, overall, prevention is best. Avoiding tick-borne diseases and impacts means avoiding a tick bite. Use the resources and links on the left and right sidebars of this webpage for the resources you will need to avoid tick bites, manage ticks in the landscape, what to do if you are bitten, and protect yourself from tick bites and tick-borne diseases.

Content compiled by members of the Cornell University Horticulture Program Work Team, 2021.

Last updated July 3, 2024