URBANA — More than 900 ticks down, and a bunch more of those little bloodsuckers to go.

Researchers involved in an Illinois tick research and surveillance program are, once again, seeking the ticks people find on their bodies. And they're hoping to be sent even more ticks than they got last year.

Last year, the Illinois Tick Inventory Collaboration Network, called I-TICK for short, received more than 900 ticks that people from 28 counties pulled from themselves or their animals, according to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine.

A collaboration between the veterinary college and the Illinois Natural History Survey, I-TICK is expanding this year, so researchers are seeking even more volunteers to take part.

I-TICK researchers are still in the process of testing ticks that were sent to them last year, according to Rebecca Smith, one of the two I-TICK program coordinators. They're hoping to learn more about where and when ticks are active in various areas of the state and where ticks are spreading diseases, she said.

Participants shouldn't rely on this program to find out if they were bitten by infected ticks and which diseases the ticks were carrying. I-TICK can't promise to test every tick, and can't share the results of test findings with the ticks' former hosts, Smith said.

That's because the testing process takes so long, people bitten by infected ticks would already be sickened by whatever pathogens the ticks were carrying by the time they were notified by researchers, Smith said. And it's possible participants may have been bitten by more than one tick, she said.

Participants in this research are typically farmers, park district employees, hikers, dog-walkers and others who are outdoors a lot for work or recreation.

I-TICK has established a network of collection hubs throughout the state, and participants are asked to start by contacting the nearest hub to them and getting tick collection kits.

The next step for volunteers is to collect the ticks they find on themselves or their pets or livestock for five days over the course of any two weeks between April and December.

The ticks are to be placed in vials included in collection kits. Participants are also asked to record dates and locations for their tick contacts and get their kits back to the collection hubs, which will send them on to the UI.

Illinois is home to about 15 species of ticks, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

These tiny arachnids wait in grasses and shrubs for passers-by so they can crawl aboard and latch on for blood meals, according to IDPH. Ticks are said to be efficient carriers of blood-borne diseases because they latch onto their hosts so firmly and can go unnoticed for days.