Shelter Island is a beautiful island and has much to offer but it also has an abundance of ticks and their tick-borne illnesses can make you very sick. Currently there are six known tick-borne illnesses present on Shelter Island spread by three kind of ticks. (Different ticks are spreading different diseases.)
1.) The Blacklegged Tick: (previously called the deer tick) (Ixodes scapularis) which causes Lyme disease, erlichiosis, and babesiosis. Larval and nymphal blacklegged (deer) ticks often hide in shady, moist ground litter, but adults can often be found above the ground clinging to tall grass, brush, and shrubs. They also inhabit gardens and areas at the edges of woodlands and around old stone walls where deer and white-footed mice, the ticks’ preferred hosts, thrive. Most blacklegged ticks will sit on leaves and brush waiting for a potential host to brush against it so it can climb on.
2.) The Lone Star Tick: (Amblyomma americanum) which causes erlichiosis and STARI (which is similar to Lyme disease). The lone star tick, which is becoming more prevalent on the Island, is different from the blacklegged tick because it is very aggressive and can quickly travel up to 30 feet to latch onto a host.
3.) The American Dog Tick: the dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis), which causes rocky mountain fever (Tularemia) mainly attaches itself to dogs and other small animals.
The actual sizes of the ticks in their different cycles are shown in the picture below. Note that the lone star tick and blacklegged tick nymphs are so small that they are hard to see. Larval ticks have not been infected yet and therefore do not spread any of the tick-borne diseases to you if they bite you. However, lone star larval ticks can cause bites that itch like crazy very similar to a chigger bite.