Facts, Identification & Control
Family Ixodidae (describes most common ticks)
Ticks vary in color by species. Adult ticks can be smaller than a sunflower seed (over 1 cm long if engorged with blood), while tick larvae can be less than 1 mm. Common problem ticks include the American dog tick, deer or blacklegged tick and lone star tick.
Behavior, Diet & Habits
Often found near wooded and highly vegetated areas. Some species require moisture to survive. Females and males of most species feed on blood of mammals, birds and reptiles. Each tick species does have a preferred host, although most ticks will feed on whatever blood is available to them. Thus, ticks are known to bite livestock, deer, humans, dogs and cats.
There are four stages in a tick’s lifecycle – egg, larval, nymphal and adult. Ticks have only six legs during their larval stage and eight legs during their nymphal and adult stages. They consume blood meals during all stages. Pathogens, or organisms that cause diseases in the animals they infect, can be passed through the stages of a tick’s life cycle.
Signs of a Ticks / Tick Infestation
Tick signs usually are the ticks themselves. Secondary signs can include medical symptoms from diseases or fluids transmitted by ticks. These can vary and are best left to a medical professional for diagnosis.
Prevention / Control
Ticks also seek safety in hidden locations within homes. Repairing any crevices or gaps and keeping grass cut short outside may discourage infestations. The disposal of all empty bird and rodent nesting materials is also necessary, as ticks will readily infest these items. Treatment for ticks is not the same as for fleas. If you suspect a tick infestation, call your local pest management professional.
Ticks found on pets or people require cautious and thorough removal. Ticks should be grasped behind the head by tweezers and pulled slowly away from the host’s skin. Crushing the tick may lead to the release of further dangerous fluids. It is important that the mouthparts be completely removed from the wound, as well. Infected areas should be thoroughly washed and disinfected. If there are medical concerns resulting from a tick or flea bite, seek medical attention immediately.
More facts & Information
Ticks in the Home
Ticks get inside homes by hitchhiking inside on pets, people or our clothing. Therefore, it always is a good idea to inspect pets and our children to make sure there are no ticks and to wash any clothes that may contain ticks. Ticks can become a problem if there are suitable tick hosts living in the crawl space or attic. Other animals may bring ticks inside to their nests, burrows, roosts or other living spaces. Once inside, most tick species do not survive well unless they find another host. The exception to this generalization is the brown dog tick, a species that survives and reproduces quite well inside, and soft ticks.
Soft ticks in the family Argasidae are a group of ticks that sometimes invade structures searching for a host. These ticks do not present much of a threat to well-built homes with effectively constructed and maintained exclusionary measures, unless there is a host’s burrow or nest inside the structure. However, in rustic cabins or old, poorly constructed and maintained homes with multiple sources of entry, these ticks may attempt to feed on humans before returning to their sheltered sites inside cracks, crevices or their host’s nest or burrow.
Tick removal should be done with great care to reduce the chance of infection. The use of forceps or tweezers is the most efficient removal technique. However, in the event that a victim is not in possession of these tools and needs to remove a tick, it is important that hands be washed prior to removal.
When removing ticks from the skin, take care not to crush the body of the specimen. This may further expose bite victims to harmful bacteria and diseases. Grip the tick as close as possible to the tip of the head. The mouthparts should also be thoroughly removed from the victim’s skin.
Once removed, isolate the specimen inside a bottle with a lid. Wash your hands and the affected area. If the victim has medical concerns, he or she should see a medical doctor.
Fleas vs Ticks: Differences & Similarities
Fleas and ticks are both parasitic in nature, living on hosts much larger than themselves. Both fleas and ticks feed on the blood of their chosen hosts and are transmitters of various diseases.
Like other arachnids, adult ticks possess four pairs of legs. However, as larvae, they bear only six legs and gain their fourth pair after molting. Their territories are not defined by specific location; rather, ticks tend to dwell within the habitats of their preferred hosts. Thus, ticks may be found in areas as diverse as forests, grasslands and human homes. After hatching, all stages of a tick’s life cycle feed on blood.
Fleas are insects with six legs. They are wingless and incapable of flight. However, the flat bodies and long legs of the flea have developed to enable impressive jumping skills and the ability to move unimpeded through dense fur or hair. Fleas are found throughout the world, with several species residing primarily in households. Fleas undergo complete metamorphosis of egg, larva, pupa and adult. Only adult fleas feed on blood.
While neither ticks nor fleas choose humans as their primary hosts, both parasites are known to bite and feed on humans in the absence of other food sources.
Regular pet inspections can reduce the chance of your pet contracting a tick-borne disease. Feeding ticks should be removed as soon as they are discovered. Many treatments are also available from your veterinarian’s office for tick control.
Learn how to identify common pests; understand their biology, diet, and habits; and find out what you can do to control them.