Ticks typically begin to appear in late spring and early summer as warm weather sets in, but this year cases of the annual pest were reported three to four weeks earlier than normal, said University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service agents.

"I've been receiving calls about ticks for well over a month already from homeowners, farmers, and hunters," said Kenny Perry, Graves County agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

"I'm seeing them earlier than before and expect them to be a problem this year," added Charles May, Perry County agriculture and natural resources extension agent.

The early appearance of ticks is likely due to this year's weather. "Winter survival was probably higher due to the mild winter, and the tick season started earlier because of the warm spring," said Lee Townsend, PhD, extension entomologist with the UK College of Agriculture.

Townsend said the two most common ticks in Kentucky are the lone star tick and the American dog tick. The adult female lone star tick has a white spot on its back. The male is entirely reddish-brown. The American dog tick is reddish brown with mottled white markings on its back. Both tick species are most active from April to September throughout much of Kentucky.

Like Perry and May, Richard Whitis, Pulaski County agriculture and natural resources extension agent, received some very early questions about ticks and tick identification. They were due to the blacklegged tick, a species only occasionally found in Eastern Kentucky before this past winter. Unlike the other two ticks, adult blacklegged ticks are most active in November through April. The blacklegged tick is most commonly found in the Northeast and north central states.

Blacklegged ticks look very different than American dog ticks and lone star ticks. They have a reddish-brown body, dark head, long mouthparts and dark legs. Males have a dark plate that covers their whole body while females have a dark plate that only covers half of their body.

Katie Pratt is an agricultural communications specialist within UK's College of Agriculture.

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