Ask UConn Extension: Tips to Stop Bugging Out on the Trails

Enjoying Connecticut's trails doesn't have to include a bite from ticks, mosquitoes, or stinging insects

A family on a bridge trail looking out into nature.

(Photo courtesy of Joe Gaylor Photography)

Sunlight streams through the trees and a faint breeze is rustling the leaves overhead as you meander along a trail in the woods. It all feels perfect until you feel a small but noticeable sensation on your skin. It could be a tick, mosquito, or stinging insect.

One of these small hitchhikers can easily spoil time outdoors because they bite and sting, but also because of the vector-borne diseases they transmit. While a stinging insect is annoying and painful, most people recover quickly from these incidents. Ticks and mosquitos can have lasting negative effects, whether from Lyme disease, West Nile virus, or something else. But there are steps you can take to avoid them all on the trail.

The CT Department of Energy and Environmental Protection manages over 2,000 miles of trails in Connecticut. Private organizations, land trusts, and municipalities manage thousands of additional miles. Many of these trails are free to access or charge a nominal fee.

UConn Extension and other partners help connect residents with hiking options through the Connecticut Trails program. While UConn Extension helps increase trail use, their programs also seek to ensure that residents avoid ticks, mosquitoes, and stinging insects while out on a hike.

Every state has ticks, although species and vector-borne diseases vary. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists seven species to watch for and their geographic locations.

In Connecticut, the Blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis), or Deer tick, causes much concern because it can cause Lyme Disease. This tick has expanded as far west as Texas and the Dakotas now.

Tick season is getting longer. Spring starts sooner in many parts of the country and fall lasts longer.

Here are some tips to avoid ticks, mosquitoes, and stinging insects while enjoying the outdoors.

Before You Go

  • Choose light-colored clothing because it is easier to see a tick or insect on it.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants when possible.
  • Find an insect repellent that deters ticks, mosquitos, and other insects.
  • Walk, ride, or run in the middle of the trail, avoiding the grass and brush on the edges where the ticks are.
  • Avoid active times and areas for bugs. Mosquitoes are active from dusk to dawn, and more prevalent in wet areas and woods.

Post-Hike Check

  • Check yourself, loved ones, and pets for ticks after your time outside.
  • Remove ticks immediately if you find them.
  • Use tweezers to remove a tick and try not to crush the head or leave it in the human or animal skin.
  • Test or dispose of the tick after it is removed.

Test Those Ticks

The Connecticut Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (CVMDL) is part of the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. The lab offers tick testing as one of its many diagnostic and disease surveillance services. CVMDL is the only veterinary diagnostic laboratory in New England that’s accredited with the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians.

  • Anyone can submit a tick to the lab for identification, a Lyme disease test, or a comprehensive panel that includes multiple diseases.
  • Testing benefits you and public health in general. First, you will know what type of tick bit you and any diseases it was carrying, information that can be shared with a medical professional if needed.
  • CVMDL records all ticks and any diseases carried as part of their disease surveillance program, in conjunction with other labs and agencies.

Ideally, a walk in the woods does not include ticks, mosquitos, or stinging insects. Taking preventative measures can help avoid that situation and enjoy the time outdoors.

Visit Ask UConn Extension for more information on trails, active living, health, and well-being.