Plymouth County Tick Education Program

Tick Education


Hate ticks? Not only are ticks creepy, but they carry the potential to transmit many harmful diseases. These diseases could potentially cause long-term damage or even death. On top of this, the chances of contracting a disease in Plymouth county are very high. Lyme disease incidence alone in Plymouth county is already over 13x higher than the national average and climbing. When it comes to protecting ourselves, we can't afford to lose a single fight. One bite can change your life. Therefore, applying the correct protection methods are critical.

Fortunately, Plymouth County Extension offers free tick education services. Workshops are run by the county's entomologist educator Blake Dinius. During our workshops will review the facts about ticks, tick-borne disease, and proven protection measures. We will make sure to disple any commonly held myths along the way. Workshops come in several forms. They can be geared towards people of all ages and backgrounds.

Don't just sit around waiting for ticks to bite! With the right knowledge and tools, all tick-borne diseases are preventable.

Check below for upcoming events or contact Blake Dinius for more information.

What you will find on this page

  • Tick Basics
  • Three-Step Approach to Protection
  • Tick Inspections
  • Common Human-biting Ticks in Massachusetts
  • Tick Removal and Testing
  • Upcoming Events
  • Free Online Educational Resources
  • Paid Services

Quick Links

Upcoming Tick Workshops

Interested in tick education? Check our calendar for an upcoming event near you!

Have a Tick on You?

Follow the link below for proper tick removal and testing.

Inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by the Plymouth County Commisioners.

Contact Us

Have a question about ticks?

Want to schedule an workshop?

Services are FREE.

Contact Blake Dinius for more information.

Tick Basics


Ticks are ancient arachnids. They come in many shapes and colors. They are found every continent of the world, including Antarctica (the seabird tick, Ixodes uriae).

There are three important tick species in Massachusetts to be aware of. These ticks tend to feed on humans. All three can transmit disease through biting.

  • Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis)
  • American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
  • Lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum)

Tick Size

After hatching from eggs, ticks have three life stages: larvae (baby), nymph (pre-teenager), and adult. No matter what stage, ticks always appear small when unfed.

The nymphal blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis) is about the size of a poppy seed. This increases to about the size of a sesame seed, when the tick becomes an adult.

Tick Habitat

Small size makes ticks very prone to drying out (dessication). This means that tick habitats will tend to be damp and dark.

Ticks sometimes engage in a behavior called "questing." This is where they will crawl up a blade of grass, brier, or stick and hope to cling to a passerby. However, due to the risk of drying out, they will not be found above 2 feet off the ground.

Leaf litter, forest edges, and gardens are friendly to ticks.

Places like soccer fields or baseball diamonds are hostile to ticks.

Tick Diet

Ticks require blood of other animals to survive. Ticks only ever need to feed three times in their life. But, unlike mosquitoes, when ticks bite, they are looking to feed for long periods of time.

Ticks have even developed strategies to prevent our bodies from detecting them when they are feeding on us.

Finding Food

Ticks cannot jump or fly. Ticks do not climb trees either. They must crawl from the ground up.

When ticks sense a passerby (vibrations, carbon dioxide, moisture, etc.), they will become slightly more active. This means that they will wave their arms around hoping to latch onto fur or clothing with their claws. They also may start "questing."

Ticks are Active Year-Round

You run the risk of contracting a tick-borne disease 365 days a year.

Ticks produce a substance in their bodies called glycerol. Glycerol was historically used as antifreeze in cars. This allows ticks to survive below freezing temperatures. Any time the weather gets above freezing, ticks will become active and you may encounter one.

Three-Step Approach to Protection

1. Protect Yourself

Protecting your skin is the first line of defense in keeping ticks from biting you.
Long before an outting:

  • Treat your clothing with permethrin - Make sure to follow the instrucrtions properly!

Prior an outting:

  • Cover as much as skin as possible with permethrin-treated clothing.
  • Wear gloves and long sleeves when performing yard work
  • Use EPA-approved bug repellent on exposed skin.

During an outing:

  • Avoid tick habitats
  • Insect yourself for ticks frequently
  • Reapply bug repellent

After an outting:

  • Inspect yourself for ticks
  • Dry your clothing for at least 20 minutes.

2. Protect Your Yard

Ticks are extremely prone to drying out. They will be found in damp, humid environments, such as edges of forests, leaf litter, tall grass. They can also be found in gardens and areas covered by pachysandra or dense shrubs.
Reduce tick habitats in areas you can change:

  • Keep grass mowed short
  • Remove any leaf litter and ground cover, such as pachysandra
  • Trim back shrubs
  • Reduce stacked wood

Avoid tick habitats in areas you can't change:

  • Relocate commonly used items, such as swing sets and grills

3. Protect Your Pets

 Protecting your pets is just as important as protecting yourselves. Pets are part of our family and they are just as susceptible to contracting tick-borne diseases as we are.
Pet-specific actions:

  • Avoid tick habitats when possible
  • Perform tick inspections on pets - Make sure the inspections are very thorough if Fluffy likes to play in the woods
  • There are some ticks that will preferentially feed on dogs over humans, such as the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus).
  • Give your pets proper treatment, like flea and tick collars and applications
  • There are specific treatments for cats and dogs - Do not mix these up!
  • Vaccinate your dogs against Lyme

Tick Inspections

Ticks are very sneaky. Make sure to check yourself frequently.


While the three-step approach is very effective, there is always a risk of encountering a tick.

Frequent tick inspections and proper removal are key.

Most diseases are not transmitted in under 12 hours. Performing frequent inspections can not only prevent disease transmission, but you might even catch a tick before it bites.

What to Look For

There are three ticks in Massachusetts that carry diseases and are likely to bite humans. Many of the other ticks, such as the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), do not tend to bite humans.

Ticks have unique scutums (the circular top part of their "body"). If you take a look at a blacklegged tick, for example, the scutum is the black portion of the body.

Ticks are also identifiable by their unique shapes.

While distinct, larvae and nymphs may be difficult to distinguish. They can appear similar in size and pattern to the untrained eye.

Where to Look

Ticks will seek warm, humid places or areas where clothing becomes restrictive.

Pay close attention to:

  • Scalp and Hairline
  • Behind the Ears
  • Neck
  • Armpit
  • Belly
  • Groin
  • Behind the Knees
  • Toes

Common Human-biting Ticks in Massachusetts

Blacklegged Tick or Deer Tick

Ixodes scapularis

Scutum is black. Adult females also have a reddish-brown body prior to feeding. Adult males appear all black.

Nymphs are about the size of a poppy seed. Adults are about the size of a sesame seed. Larvae do not transmit disease.

Potential diseases:

Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, relapsing fever, and Powassan virus

American Dog Tick or Wood Tick

Dermacentor variabilis

Scutum is has a white mottled pattern. Larvae and nymphs are similar in size to blacklegged ticks.

Nymphs are similar in size to blacklegged ticks, slightly larger than a poppy seed. Adults are noticeably larger than blacklegged ticks.

Potential diseases:

Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Lone Star Tick

Amblyomma americanum

Lone Star Tick:

These ticks run fast. The white spot in adult females is diagnostic. The scutum in males has a mottled pattern. Shape is much more  than any of the other ticks.

Nymphs are similar in size to blacklegged ticks, slightly larger than a poppy seed. Adults are noticeably larger than blacklegged ticks.

Potential diseases:

Human monocytic ehrlichiosis,  Ehrlichia ewingii, southern tick associated rash illness (STARI), and tularemia. The lone star tick can also transmit the alpha gal allergy, or allergy to red meat.

Tick Removal and Testing

1. Get a Pair of Tweezers or Foreceps

Using a pair of metal, pointy tweezers works best.

There are some specialized tick removal tools that may also work. Make sure to follow the instructions for each.

2. Firmly grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible

Grasp as close to the skin as possible to ensure that you can remove as much as the tick as possible.

3. Pull straight up with steady force

The key is pulling with steady, even pressure. The tick will pop off eventually.

Do not twist or yank.

After removal, save the tick! See Step 5.

4. Apply antiseptic to the site of attachment

Apply antiseptic to the site of attachment. Doing so can help reduce the risk of infection.

5. Follow up on your tick bite

Track the progress of the bite. Record the date that the tick was removed. Take pictures of the attachment site. These steps will help you track the progress of your bite.

Send the tick in to get tested. The added information can assist in medical diagnosis and, potentially, give you peace of mind.

For a fee, can deliver a full comprehensive report of the tick and diseases it is carrying.

Inclusion does not constitute endorsement by Plymouth County Commissioners. 

DO NOT USE petroleum jelly, matches, gasoline, or nail polish remover

These methods will not prevent disease transmission. Some of them fwill not even remove the tick.

Upcoming Events

No upcoming events.

Free Online Educational Resources

Tick Encounter

University of Rhode Island's tick resource data base.

MA Department of Public Health

MA Department of Public Health's tick-borne disease page.

Cape Cod Cooperative Extension

For tick education services based out of Barnstable county.

Paid Services

Tick Report

Professional tick testing services. For a fee, you can find out diseases your tick was carrying along with an approximate length of time it fed for. Turn around time is 3 days.

If diseases are present, tick testing can aid in medical diagnosis. If no diseases are present, testing can give you peace of mind.

Insect Shield

For professional treatment of clothing with permethrin. Good for up to 70 washings.

Don't Get Bit

For professional tick education services targeted at children and schools.

Contact Us

Drop us a line!

Better yet, see us in person!

We love the public, so feel free to visit during normal business hours.

Plymouth County Extension

44 Obery St, Plymouth, MA 02360, US

(774) 404-7020