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Tickstick

Ticks can be found year-round, but are most visible in the warm summer months. They feed on blood, so they are continually looking for a host to latch onto for a meal. When hosts cannot be found, a tick can go for months, sometimes more than a year, without feeding.

Ticks go from egg to adult in different stages depending on what kind of tick it is. Some ticks only have a couple of stages, while others go through as many as eight stages. The length of time it takes to go through the stages varies as well, and that partly depends on factors such as temperature, humidity, availability of food, etc. A young tick (of any kind) will have six legs, but an adult tick will have eight, and in general, there are two main kinds of ticks; the hard and soft varieties.

It is necessary for a female tick to have a blood meal before she can lay eggs. After feeding, she will usually drop off of the host to lay her eggs. The number of eggs will vary, but some ticks can lay up to ten thousand eggs at one time.

Ticks can carry a number of diseases that can be transferred to humans. Because they suck blood from both animals and humans, they can easily pick up diseases from one host and pass it on to the next. Some diseases humans can get from ticks include Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme Disease, Q Fever, Tularemia, Tick Paralysis and Meningoencephalitis.

Ticks often have a certain host that they prefer to latch onto. For this reason, they are often given names like Deer Tick, Cat Tick, American Dog Tick, Bat Tick, Bird Tick, etc. However, it is important to understand that once a tick loses a particular host, it will try to find another before long. Even though they may prefer one type of host, they will feed on anything with blood in it.

Animals that live in your home, like dogs and cats, can easily bring ticks into your house. After feeding for a couple of days, the ticks will drop off of the host and lay eggs. They look for tiny crevices to store their eggs, which means that you could soon have a large infestation of ticks in your home. Getting rid of a tick infestation takes time because eggs can hatch months later, long after you think you have the situation under control.

The deer tick is found in grassy areas, open fields, and especially the margin where fields meet wooded areas. The deer tick transmits a bacteria which causes Lyme disease, a serious human disease that exhibits symptoms common to many other diseases. It is initially flu-like but if not treated can develop into rheumatoid arthritis-type conditions. Lyme disease is not usually fatal but can be debilitating and difficult to treat if not detected early.

Deer ticks

Adult deer ticks are tiny--approximately the size of a sesame seed. Males are black; females have a brick-red abdomen and a black shield near the head. Females swell to 1/4 mm when fully engorged after feeding. Adults are found primarily from September through November, and again in March and April. Adults feed mainly on deer, but will also attack cattle, horses, dogs, etc. Humans are accidental hosts.

Life cycle

After hatching from an egg in late spring, deer ticks go through three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult. Each stage requires a different host animal. During each stage a tick feeds only once. Deer ticks need 2 years to complete their life cycle. The larvae are tan and very small (about the size of a pin head). They feed in late summer (near ground level) on mice, shrews, chipmunks, voles, and other small animals. Newly hatched deer ticks do not initially carry Lyme disease; they pick it up from an infected animal. The white-footed mouse is the primary carrier/source of the Lyme disease bacterium. A tick that picks up the bacterium from feeding will pass it to the next life stage and is able to infect future host animals. Nymphs are the size of a poppy seed. They are beige, sometimes appearing transparent with a dark head. Nymphs feed from May through August on larger animals including birds, raccoons, opossum, squirrels, cats, dogs and human beings.

Disease cycle

The risk of being bitten by a deer tick infected with Lyme disease is greatest in the summer months of June and July when the nymph stage is active. This is the time of year when people (and notably children) are most active outdoors. Make a habit of thoroughly checking yourself and others for the tiny nymph (shown to the right) following outdoor activities. The risk is also high in the fall, when adults are active. However, the adults are easier to see and remove than the nymphs. If you live in or have visited an area with a high incidence of ticks, it is important to know the symptoms of Lyme disease:

  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Spreading "bull's-eye" rash from the tick bite
  • Swelling and pain in the joints

Tick removal

If you find a tick on your body, remove it AS SOON AS POSSIBLE; ticks must be attached for 24 hours for the bacteria to be transmitted. To remove feeding ticks, use tweezers ONLY; do NOT use nail polish, Vaseline, matches or other methods that may traumatize the tick and cause it to regurgitate its gut contents. Grasp the tick with tweezers around its head, close to the skin and pull it up slowly and firmly. Disinfect the bite afterwards with antiseptic.

Lyme disease symptoms mimic manyother diseases. About 80 percent of Lyme disease victims develop a rash within two days to four weeks. If untreated, more severe symptoms may develop--sometimes months to years later. If you suspect that you have contracted Lyme disease, consult a physician immediately.

Brown dog tick

Adult male ticks are flat, about 1/8 inch long and uniformly re-brown with tiny pits scattered over the back. They do not enlarge upon feeding as do females Before feeding, adult female ticks resemble the males in size, shape and color. As they feed, females become engorged and swell to 1/2 inch long and 1/4 inch wide. The legs, mouthparts and shield area behind the head remain red-brown, but the enlarged portion of the body becomes gray-blue to olive. The red-brown color is distinctive and no other tick normally encountered will be uniformly red-brown.

Egg-laying begins about three days after the engorged adult female drops from the dog. She may deposit as many as 5,000 eggs in places such as between boards, under plaster or carpeting, or in other cracks and crevices. The eggs usually hatch in about three weeks, although up to several months may be required under particularly cool or dry conditions. After hatching, the larvae wait months while waiting for a host. Once on the host, the larvae feed for about three days and then drop off. Molting occurs about one week after the blood meal, and nymphs emerge to climb vegetation or vertical surfaces to again wait for a host. The second feeding will last about four days, after which they again drop off, to molt into the adult stage. Adults can live up to 1 1/2 years, without feeding, but must feed before mating. After mating, the female completely engorges herself with blood and then drops off the host to lay eggs.

A home can become heavily infested if the family dog picks up ticks from an infested residence, during which time some ticks may drop off. In this case, the home and yard may become infested even though a dog is not generally kept there. Dogs do not become infested with brown dog ticks by direct contact with other dogs. Ticks feeding on a dog drop off and molt before they will resume host-seeking behavior and attach to another dog.

Prevention

  • Avoid grassy areas and shrubs where ticks may be lying in wait to tag a ride on a potential "meal."

  • Avoid tick season completely by staying away from outdoor areas where ticks thrive, usually during the months of April through September in the U.S.

  • Wear light-colored clothing so ticks can be easily seen, and brush them off.

  • Tuck pants into boots or socks.

  • Apply insect repellant, specifically the brands designed to repel ticks. Follow label instructions. Avoid use of DEET-containing repellents on children. Carefully follow instructions and apply some repellents directly to skin and others to clothing.Promptly check yourself, others, and pets if exposed to tick areas.

    • DEET-containing repellents with concentrations of 15% or less may be suitable for children. These should be carefully applied strictly following label directions.
    • Repellents containing permethrins may be applied to clothing but not to skin.
    • In high tick areas, DEET-containing repellents may need to be reapplied more frequently than for repelling mosquitoes. Follow the package label instructions carefully.
  • Make sure to treat pets with flea and tick repellents. If ticks are removed from pets, manage them the same way you would remove a tick on a person. Protect yourself from the potential exposures with gloves.

  • People who live in a tick-infested area and have experienced a fever within the last two months should not donate blood.

  • Taking antibiotics for the prevention of Lyme disease is controversial and probably only useful in areas of the country where exposure to deer ticks would be high.

  • An immunization against Lyme disease, LYMErix, is not currently commercially available.

Ask about our Home Protection Plan, this is the best protection we can provide to control pests in and around your home. Pests are a constant threat to your home environment and with on-going inspection, treatment and correction of conducive conditions, All County can provide a much better living environment for you and your family.

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