It's tick season again. Here's how to avoid the disease-carrying pests

Tick nymphs
Blacklegged tick nymphs crawled around in a test tube at an entomology lab at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News

Minnesota's tick season has already begun, and experts say the parasites are hungry after a long winter.

"We found our first deer ticks of the year April 12. Then we had that huge snowstorm and they relaxed for a while, but we're seeing them again this week," Metropolitan Mosquito Control District tick specialist Janet Jarnefeld said.

The year's heavy snowfall actually helped tick populations by insulating their winter habitat, Jarnefeld said.

So how to deal with the pests? Here are Jarnefeld's tips to prevent tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease:

• When outdoors, wear light-colored clothing and tuck jeans into socks to make it easier to spot ticks.

• Apply repellent spray to clothing, not directly to skin.

• Do a "tick check" after coming back inside. Ticks need to stay attached for about two days to spread Lyme disease, but periods as short as five minutes can cause other infections, Jarnefeld said.

• To control ticks at home, mow target areas twice a week and spray with a product containing permethrin.

And don't worry, relief is on the way. August is Minnesota's "tick-free" month, when ticks are at their lowest numbers of the year, Jarnefeld said. Deer ticks do appear again in the fall.

"Be careful out there, but still enjoy yourself," Jarnefeld said. "Don't let fear of a tick bite interrupt your enjoyment of the outdoors."

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