While there are more than 850 species of ticks worldwide, only four account for nearly 90% of tick-related pest cases in the U.S. Ticks are external plasma feeding parasites of warm blooded mammals and are important vectors of disease between animals and humans. Ticks pick up multiple pathogens (microscopic parasites, viruses or bacteria which infect red blood cells) as they hitchhike from animal to animal. These disease-causing organisms are first acquired when a tick bites a host (by inserting a mouthpart called a hyposteme) and draws a plasma meal. Some of the resulting diseases like Lyme, Babesioses, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis and Tick paralysis are then transmitted to humans.
Ticks have three distinct life cycles: egg, larvae and nymph, or adult. (Because the nymph remains biologically unchanged from one molt to the next, I consider this one stage of their life cycle.) A hard shell tick will only bite and draw blood three times, once after each molt. Soft shell ticks feed multiple times and the nymphs will molt multiple times before the adult stage. The entire lifespan of a tick can last anywhere from several months to several years, depending on the climate. An adult female tick will lay between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs and then die. The nymph requires a plasma meal before molting into an adult. Thus, becoming voracious feeders.
Humans are very susceptible to tick bites because of a population shift to more wooded locations, along with the creation of tick friendly eco-scapes in our back yard. Widespread illness from ticks is a result of closer interaction with tick-infected wildlife and undetected tick-borne diseases not previously screened for in our nation’s blood supply. Transfusions using this tainted blood is the leading cause of the spread of tick-related disease in the U.S. A pediatric infectious disease specialist from Washington University, Gregory A. Storch, M.D. has created a research team to study multiple tick-borne illnesses.
There are several species of ticks in the U.S., including the American Dog Tick, Blacklegged Tick (inappropriately nicknamed the Deer Tick), and the Lone Star Tick which spread diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Babesioses, Lyme Disease and Tularemia, respectively Characteristics of these diseases are a reddish to purple black rash around the ankles and wrists, a crimson patch on the skin, or in the case of Lyme Disease a bullseye rash around the infected area. Infection from tick bites require the parasite to remain continuously embedded in the host for up to 24 hours. Some symptoms of tick-related illnesses include but are not limited to fatigue, memory loss, myalgia (joint pain), palpitations, headaches, nausea, aches, pains, arthritis, bells palsy and low grade fever.
Ticks attach to their hosts by a process known as “questing.” They crawl up a blade of grass and widely extend the first two pairs of legs while holding on with the remaining pairs. Because they are attracted to carbon dioxide and heat, they have the ability to easily detect an appropriate host. They lay in wait for an animal or person to pass by and then grab on for the ride. They usually start small by attaching to a mouse, chipmunk, bird, rabbit, squirrel, or raccoon and then work up to larger animals like dogs, deer and humans. We are most at risk to tick bites in the spring, summer and fall. Here are some tips for early tick detection and control of this unwanted parasite:
- Wear light colored clothing so ticks are easily seen.
- Tape pant legs into your socks before going into the woods or hiking.
- Spray at-risk areas with an approved pesticide containing deet or permethrine.
- Inspect yourself, kids, and pets daily.
- Remove ticks with a pair of tweezers, making sure not to leave body parts behind.
- Move stored piles of wood to the outer edge of the back yard to prevent tick-carrying mice from nesting close to your home.
- Keep deer out of your yard. Trim or remove honeysuckle.
- Improve your golf game. Seriously, it will keep you out of the rough!
Most importantly, if you feel at risk to a tick infestation, call the professionals at Bugs By Brian to recommend an exterior pest prevention program. We can target and treat for specific pests like ticks in mulch beds, around pool areas where kids play, and in the yard, giving you peace of mind by ensuring the health of your pets and family.
A question for our readers. What do you get when you cross a bunch of ants with some ticks? All sorts of anticks! Really, tick bites and diseases caused by ticks are no laughing matter, so call your trusted pest control professionals at Bugs by Brian today to treat a tick problem in or around your home.Call Bugs by Brian® today to exterminate ticks in your home or business.