Ticks are small parasites that feed on the blood of a host. Ticks are considered to be a pest because they can be vectors of several diseases that can inflict humans and animals.
WHY DO TICKS BITE?
- In order to survive, ticks must feed on blood to move into the next stage of development -- from larva to nymph to adult.
- A female tick needs an additional blood meal to produce eggs
- Ticks need the protein and other nutrients in our blood, but not the water. They filter the water out and inject it back into our bodies as saliva. It is believed that the saliva injection process is what causes the bacteria of Lyme disease and other dangerous infectious pathogens to be passed to the hosts.
- A tick will take from 10 minutes to 2 hours to find a location to feed and to prepare the site.
- A tick will remain attached to its host for several days, preparing the site, spitting in saliva, and sucking out the blood-meal.
- Ticks have very sophisticated mouthparts that have curved teeth at the end that keep them securely attached.
ARE TICK BITES DANGEROUS?
- Yes. Blacklegged ticks (formerly known as Deer ticks) can potentially transmit Lyme disease (about 1,200 cases each year in Minnesota), human anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Powassan encephalitis. Lyme and anaplasmosis are caused by bacteria, babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites, and Powassan encephalitis is caused by a virus.
- Although American dog ticks (aka “Wood Ticks”) are known to carry the disease organism that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever in the U.S., this disease is rarely encountered in Minnesota.
- In Minnesota, the highest risk of Lyme disease occurs in the southeast, east central and north central areas of the state.
- Primarily risks of Lyme disease are from mid-May through mid-July due to bites from infected nymphal Blacklegged ticks, although cases have been reported in Minnesota from February through November.
- The risk of getting a tick-borne disease is small if the tick is removed soon after it becomes attached. Blacklegged ticks must remain attached for more than 36 hours in order to transmit Lyme disease, and about one day for the other diseases.
HOW DO I KNOW IF THE TICK THAT BIT ME HAS LYME’S DISEASE?
- Carefully remove the tick and make note of its appearance. Only Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks cause Lyme disease.
- It can be helpful to write down information about the size of the tick, whether the tick was actually attached to the skin, if the tick was engorged (full of blood), how long the tick was attached, and the date of the tick bite. Correct identification of the tick and the information on the bite may aid your doctor in accurate diagnosis.
- A tick that was not attached, was easy to remove or just walking on the skin, and was still flat (not full of blood) when it was removed is highly unlikely to have transmitted Lyme disease or any other infection since it had not yet taken a blood meal.
- There is no benefit of blood testing for Lyme disease at the time of the tick bite; even people who become infected will not have a positive blood test until approximately two to six weeks after the tick bite.
- From 3 to 30 days after a Lyme disease-infected tick bite, 70% to 80% of the people develop a red skin lesion that expands over a period of days to form a bright red ring up to 12” across with a clear center. (Sometimes the red rash does not have this central clearing.) The “bull's-eye” rash may feel warm to the touch, but it is rarely itchy or painful.
- Other symptoms at the onset may include fever, chills, headache, muscle pain, malaise, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, or a sore throat.
- Seek medical attention immediately if you develop any of the above symptoms and believe you may have been bitten by at Blacklegged tick.
HOW DO I GET TICKS OFF ME?
- To minimize the risk of disease transmission, inspect your body for ticks immediately after you have been in a tick habitat.
- The best method for removing a feeding tick attached to a human (or pet) is to grasp the tick as close as possible to the skin of the host with a pair of tweezers and gently, yet firmly, apply steady pressure on the tick until you pull it out.
- Be careful to avoid squeezing the abdomen.
- Do not jerk or twist the tick out, as you can break off the mouthparts buried in the skin.
- The use of a smoldering match, tape, alcohol, or covering the tick with Vaseline to cause it to voluntarily pull its mouthparts out of the skin is generally not effective.
- Always clean the wound with a good germicidal agent to help prevent infection.
- If there is any question as to whether or not it is a Blacklegged tick that bit you, save it by placing it in a small container to be identified later.
WHAT DO TICKS LOOK LIKE?
- There are thirteen known species of ticks in Minnesota.
- Most of the species are known as “hard ticks,” because they have a relatively hard body and a plate-like shield (scutum) behind the head.
- The most common of the hard ticks are the Blacklegged tick (formerly called the deer tick), the American dog tick or “wood tick,” and the brown dog tick.
- The species of ticks categorized as “soft ticks” have a more leathery body and do not have the scutum behind the head. When looking at a soft tick, the head is typically hidden from view.
- Tick larvae are as large as grains of sand, a tick nymph is as large as a poppy seed, and an adult tick is about the size of an apple seed.
- Correctly identifying the species of tick can be very difficult. You may bring a tick to Adam’s Pest Control for a free identification.
Blacklegged Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis)
- Formerly called “Deer ticks,” adult female Blacklegged ticks are orange-brown with contrasting dark legs
- Adult males are smaller than female Blacklegged ticks and are brown in color.
- Blacklegged ticks appear rust or brown-red color after feeding
- Flat; broad oval, approximately 1/8” in length
- Nymphs are about the size of a pin-head
- Ticks that are engorged with a blood meal appear darker and approximately twice the length
- Adults have 8 Legs; larvae have 6 legs
- Blacklegged ticks have no antennae
American dog tick or Wood Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
- Adult American dog ticks, also known as Wood Ticks, are dark brown with silver-gray or whitish coloring on their scutums.
- Adult females are slightly larger than adult males; unfed females are typically 1/5” in length and males are about 1/7” in length
- Blood-fed (engorged) females can enlarge to over ½” in length
- Larvae are very small (1/50”) and yellow turning to gray-black after feeding
- Nymphs are a pale, yellowish- brown becoming slate gray after blood-feeding
- Immature ticks will have red markings near their eyes and will lack white coloration on the scutum
- Adults have 8 Legs; larvae have 6 legs
- Mouthparts (the capitulum) are visible when viewed from above (Most people think it is the tick’s head, but what you see is actually the tick’s mouth.)
Brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)
- Brown dog ticks are reddish-brown in color, without any markings on their bodies
- The Brown Dog Tick is, has an elongated body shape
- The Brown dog tick is almost exclusively a parasite of dogs and found most often in a dog’s ears and between its toes
- Brown dog ticks cannot survive winters outdoors in Minnesota but can spend its entire life cycle indoors in heated kennels and homes.
- Brown dog ticks can infest a home or kennel in large numbers, hiding in furniture, curtains, baseboards, moldings, electrical outlet boxes, etc.
- Professional extermination of indoor brown dog tick infestations is recommended.
Bat tick (Carios kelleyi)
- A bat tick is a soft tick and does not look like a typical hard tick.
- It is brownish-gray in color with a grainy body.
- 1/7” - 3/8” in length depending on life stage
- No visible mouthparts
- Unlike common hard ticks that stay attached to the host, bat ticks take small amounts of blood every few days, typically feeding at night.
- Bat ticks are found where bats are allowed to roost in the upper floors of the buildings.
WHY ARE TICKS IN MY YARD?
- The number of ticks found on a property is relative to the favorable habitat and availability of hosts.
- Ticks prefer tall grassy areas, bushes, and shade.
- Minimizing the wildlife in your yard -- especially white tailed deer, white footed mice, voles, chipmunks, raccoons, squirrels, dogs, and cats – will reduce the tick population.
WHAT IS THE LIFECYCLE OF TICKS?
- Ticks undergo an incomplete metamorphosis: egg, larva, nymph, adult.
- Eggs hatch into larvae with six legs. After one blood meal, larvae molt into a nymphs with eight legs. Larva and nymph stages are very similar in form to the adult, but are smaller and often different in color
- The tick feeds once in each stage before maturing to the next stage (some soft ticks can feed more than once as a nymph).
- Hard ticks typically go through their life cycle feeding on three different hosts
- Blacklegged ticks and American dog ticks (Wood ticks) require two years to complete their life cycle.
8 INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT TICKS:
- Ticks are arachnids and are more closely related to spiders and scorpions than insects.
- Ticks can live for up to a year without feeding (they will be dormant during the cold winter months), and it takes them four to six weeks to digest their blood meals.
- Ticks detect hosts by sensing their breathing, body odors, and heat.
- Ticks wait for a passing host by climbing up plants and while holding on with their back legs, stick their first pair of legs out to latch onto their host. When they detect a potential host, they grab onto the passing animal or human and let go of the plant. This process is called questing.
- Ticks do not drop out of trees onto hosts
- It is believed that ticks evolved 120 million years ago.
- Most people never feel a tick bite because ticks can inject a very local anaesthetic, preventing us from feeling the bite. (Davis and Stoppler; "Ticks").
- Hard-shelled ticks secrete a gooey substance called “cementum," a glue-like substance that helps ticks attach their feeding tubes, which are often barbed, firmly into their hosts. (Kemp, et al. 1982)