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Study of ticks on residential properties

Person in tan uniform walking away from the camera down a wooded trail. The person is holding out a stick that has a square white cloth about 3ft tall by 3ft wide on it.  The cloth is being dragged over the vegetation along the edge of the trail.
Tick sampling uses a white cloth to collect questing ticks.

In 2022, the District started a study to assess tick presence on residential properties in San Mateo County.  Information from the study will be used to develop more targeted outreach materials to address knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding ticks and tick-borne diseases in San Mateo County.  You may have received a request from us to visit your property via social media, phone call, school outreach program, newsletter, door hanger, or other means.  If you would like your property to be considered for this study, please complete this form.


It is currently assumed that residents of the San Francisco Bay Area are more likely to encounter ticks through outdoor recreation or outdoor occupations away from home than in their own yards.  However, we do not currently know how often ticks are infesting yards, or what factors may contribute to the presence of ticks in yards.


Goal #1: Assess the prevalence of ticks in yards 

Person in brown and grey uniform kneeling next to a white cloth on the ground while looking at the cloth
The tick sampling cloth is checked periodically while sampling. Ticks are collected into small containers.

All participation will be voluntary. District staff will reach out to residents prior to and during adult Ixodes spp. season (November – March) and encourage them to make appointments for a yard assessment. 

Properties will be assessed for ticks using standard tick sampling methods which consists of dragging a white flannel cloth over and around vegetation where ticks may be present. Properties will be surveyed for no more than 60 minutes total search time. Some households may be sampled in the spring (March - May) for Ixodes spp. nymphs. Ticks will be grouped by the city they are collected for disease testing, so individual property results will not be available. 


Goal #2: Assess the Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices of residents regarding tick bite prevention and tick mitigation practices. 

Photograph of a brown tick with eight legs crawling on a white fabric background.
An adult female Ixodes pacificus (western black-legged tick) on a tick sampling cloth.

An online survey will be made available to the entirety of San Mateo County assessing knowledge, attitudes, and practices about tick-bite prevention and tick mitigation in backyards; the survey will also include questions to help us understand how participants' careers, recreational activities, and activities affect knowledge, attitudes, and practices surrounding tick-bite prevention.. The survey will be advertised through multiple online applications such as the District website, newsletters, and social media platforms. The survey methods and questions have been reviewed by the Committee for the Protection of Human Subjects (CPHS) and determined to be exempt from CPHS review (Project number 2021-220).

Photographs of six ticks - dorsal and ventral views of male and female adults and dorsal views of nymphs.  All the ticks have eight legs and a darker brown upper part and lighter brown lower part.
Western black-legged ticks (Ixodes pacificus), in order from left to right: adult male, adult female, and nymph.  The lower row shows the underside views of each tick in the upper row.



Page last reviewed: November 7, 2023

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