4-H Tick Project Instructions for Participants

Instructions and Datasheets

Please read the collection instructions carefully in order to follow the proper protocol for contributing to the Maine Forest Tick Survey.


How to Collect Ticks Using a Dragcloth


How to submit your data and return materials

Please be prepared to submit all samples and datasheets using the following procedure:

  1. Follow all collection instructions prior to submission. This includes wrapping the vials in parafilm to prevent leaks in transport.
  2. Please mail your datasheets and vials together to the Hancock County Extension Office, attn: 4-H Tick Project, 63 Boggy Brook Road, Ellsworth, Maine 04605. Please send all of your original datasheets, even if you did not collect any ticks. All data is important and contributes to tick research in Maine! We encourage you to make copies of your datasheets or enter the data electronically (the datasheets will not be returned to you). If you happen to enter your data into a spreadsheet with your learners, please share the electronic form with carla.scocchi@maine.edu (this is not required).
  3. When you are done with your materials, please return them to your nearest Extension office and notify us. We encourage educators to keep the materials for the duration of their involvement in the project; so if you plan to collect ticks all year long, please keep the materials! Just keep us informed so we can track inventory.
  4. Once we receive your samples and datasheets, we will send you an electronic report with the results from the Tick Lab. These results will include the species and disease prevalence from your sample.


Teaching and Learning Resources

These are a collection of teaching and learning resources about ticks that educators can use to facilitate this project with their learners. They include activities/curriculum, articles, data sets and visualizations, videos, and information about the Ticks and Lyme Disease Climate Story. This material is part of the Learning Ecosystems Northeast project, where educators of all kinds form communities that build the climate and data literacy youth need to become the next generation of climate stewards. If you are interested in starting your own ecosystem or joining an existing one, please contact the Gulf of Maine Research Institute or the Lead Educator from the region nearest you.

Resource List – Start here Resource Drive


Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to return to the project organizer?

We need all of your original datasheets and the ticks you collected. At the end of the project, we need tweezers, stopwatches, and the drag cloth. You can keep all the other materials such as tick spoons, ID cards, etc.

Can I edit the datasheets to reflect the information we need to collect for local experimentation?

Yes! We encourage educators to customize this project for their needs and based on their youth’s interests. We ask that you record all of the information we have outlined in the datasheets above, but if you need to add more data fields, please do! For example, you can add a field for weather data collection (temperature, humidity, etc) if youth are interested in analyzing the effect of weather on tick densities. We will collect your customized datasheets as is, and gain the information that we need for our studies. We encourage you to make copies, or enter your data electronically, and send us all of your original datasheets.

What if we can’t drag for the entire 20 minutes?

No worries at all. Conduct the drag sample for as long as you can, and record the time on the datasheet. All data counts!

Why can’t we wear insect repellent while collecting?

Insect repellent can easily transfer to the drag cloth, and may also repel ticks in your surroundings while walking. Wearing insect repellent means you will not collect an accurate number of ticks. We recommend wearing light colored clothing to reduce mosquito densities around you and to easily see ticks that crawl on your clothes. If it is not possible to avoid repellent, please try not to get any on the drag cloth and make a note of it on your datasheet.

We didn’t collect any ticks during our collection time, what should I do?

We expect some sites will have little to no ticks, so this is perfectly fine. Record your collecting information on the datasheet and indicate that no ticks were collected. You will need to submit these datasheets as well!

How do I know if I am capable of seeing and finding small ticks?

If you are worried you are unable to see ticks on the drag cloth, refer back to your tick ID card to refresh your mental search image. If you can see the ticks on the ID card, you should be able to see them on the drag cloth.

How do I find GPS location?

To find your GPS location and record it on the datasheet, use a smartphone or handheld GPS. If using Google Maps, GPS location is displayed in the bar at the top of the screen when you drop a pin on your location. To drop a pin, press and hold until the red location icon appears. You can record your location to five or six decimal places. For example: 44.572424  x -68.455491. GPS can be recorded in whatever format works best for you, decimals or degrees.

What kind of information will I get back?

You will receive a report that identifies each type of tick sampled from your collection site, and if each tick tested positive or negative for the pathogens responsible for Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Hard Tick Relapsing Fever. You will also get access to our project reports that summarize the densities of ticks and their pathogens across all the project sampling sites. More information about tick-borne diseases from the Tick Lab.

How soon will we get our results?

It takes significant time for the lab to process each sample. Since this is the first year of this project, we aren’t sure exactly how long it will take but we are anticipating that it may take 3-4 weeks. If you have samples that need to be analyzed sooner for personal reasons (such as ticks you find attached to individuals or pets), we recommend you send those directly to the UMaine Extension Tick Lab or another pay-for-service tick diagnosis company.

What will you do with our data?

All data will be analyzed as part of the Maine Forest Tick Survey to see what effect,j if any, land management practices have on ticks and tick-borne pathogens. All data will be aggregated before it is made public. No identifiable or personal information is publicly reported.

What tick pathogens are you testing?

We are testing for the most common tick-borne pathogen in Maine: Borrelia burgdorferi, the causative agent of Lyme disease, as well as the pathogens responsible for Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, and Hard Tick Relapsing Fever. More information about tick-borne diseases from the Tick Lab.

I found a tick on myself or a pet, should I send it in?

In order to have standardized results among all participants, we are only interested in ticks you find while actively sampling following the tick-dragging protocol. If you have additional ticks you want to have analyzed, please follow the instructions from the UMaine Extension Tick Lab.