WVU Extension Service expert advises residents on reducing tick populations

Morgantown, W.Va. – There’s a lot of talk about ticks in the news and on social media this year after a milder than usual winter and increasing public attention to Lyme disease and Powassan virus. However, these parasitic pests are common in West Virginia and an integrated control approach can help homeowners protect themselves and their family.

According to Daniel Frank, West Virginia University Extension Service entomology specialist, West Virginia has three species of ticks that are frequently encountered. These include the American dog tick, the blacklegged or deer tick, and the lone star tick.

Different species can be more common depending on the habitat. The American dog tick is the most commonly encountered and can be found predominantly in grassy fields and other open areas around shrubby or woody habitats. Deer ticks prefer mixed forests and woodland edges, and lone star ticks primarily stick to dense woodland and animal nesting sites.

Just as they prefer different habitats, ticks can carry different pathogens. For instance, the American dog tick and lone star tick can be a carrier for the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Deer ticks are the species that may carry the pathogen that causes Lyme disease and can also transmit Powassan virus, among others.

Ticks need to feed on blood to develop on to the next stage of their lifecycle, which generally takes one to three years to complete. That’s how they come to feed on animals, including humans. Contrary to popular belief, Frank noted that ticks don’t drop from trees onto their hosts. Instead, they quest.

“Questing is when ticks wait on vegetation with their front legs stretched out waiting for a host to brush by so they can latch onto them,” said Frank. “And they’re receptive to things such as body heat, carbon dioxide from exhaling, movement and other cues. Once they sense that a host may be near, they’re more likely to quest to find a meal.”

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WVU Fire Service Extension increases firefighter training with new, mobile equipment

Morgantown, W.Va. – Firefighters across the state will soon be able to better handle a variety of emergency situations as the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension expands their footprint by bringing new, mobile equipment and training to volunteer units in rural communities.

According to Mark Lambert, director of the Fire Service Extension, the ability to reach more firefighters directly in their communities addresses a critical, unique training need for the majority of West Virginia.

“An overwhelming majority of firefighters in West Virginia are part of volunteer companies in rural parts of the state, and they are instrumental in protecting the property and livelihood of many residents,” said Lambert. “Often times it’s very difficult to get to training because of funding and the distance they’d have to travel to reach a central location — we simply need to adapt and bring the necessary training to them and make it easier for them to protect their communities.”

Part of that includes a new, state-of-the-art mobile fire training unit to augment the one unit the Fire Service Extension already has. One of the units will be positioned in the southern part of the state, allowing trainers to easily adapt and offer additional basic training to busy volunteer departments at their local stations.

Lambert explained that the mobile fire trainers are safe, adaptable and realistic — smoke, flames, sights, sounds and obstacles present firefighters a chance to sharpen their skills and an observer can shut down and ventilate benign smoke from the interior in under a minute making it safe environment to train in.

Also augmenting training capabilities for the whole state are several mobile training props that can simulate hazardous material spills, car fires and a helicopter crash. Lambert noted that a set of oil and natural gas fire training equipment is not only a new addition, but necessary for much of West Virginia.

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