Ticks: Facts, Identification & Control

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Ticks: Facts, Identification & Control

Appearance

Ticks vary in color by species. Adult ticks are smaller than a sunflower seed (1/8- to 5/8-inch long if engorged with blood), while nymphal (or immature) ticks are less than 1/16-inch. Common problem ticks include the American dog tick, deer or black legged tick and lone star tick.

Habit

Often found near wooded and highly vegetated areas. Some species require moisture to survive.

Diet

All females and males of most species feed on blood of mammals, birds and reptiles.

Reproduction

There are four stages in a tick's lifecycle egg, larvae, nymph 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.

Deer Ticks

Deer ticks, or Ixodes scapularis, are also known as blacklegged ticks. These ticks are often mistaken for brown dog ticks. Named for their propensity to feed on white-tailed deer, these ticks may also choose other large mammals as hosts, including humans. Humans, considered accidental hosts of deer ticks, may contract Lyme disease from contact. Livestock and domestic animals can also be hosts.

Deer ticks begin life as eggs and develop through larval and nymphal stages before becoming adults. Females lay eggs in suitable areas close to vegetation. Larvae hatch and immediately begin searching for hosts, which tend to be small animals such as mice. It is during this larval feeding stage that ticks contract diseases such as Lyme disease, babesiosis and human anaplasmosis. These diseases are transmitted to hosts during the nymphal and adult feedings.

Deer ticks prefer to dwell in wet, bushy areas. They are found on leaves and plant life along paths frequented by their hosts. When hosts brush against these plants, deer ticks grab their fur or clothing.

Other Facts

American dog ticks and Rocky Mountain wood ticks are common tick species. These ticks are known to feed on the blood of animals such as raccoons, deer, dogs and cats. However, they will also feed on human hosts in order to get a blood meal.

Deer ticks are found in wooded areas and prefer to feed upon the blood of white-tailed deer. These ticks wait on leaves and grass blades lining paths frequented by their hosts of choice, and will attach themselves to any passing host they find. As a result, humans often become accidental hosts of deer ticks, as well.

Although it may appear difficult at first to distinguish between the two, deer ticks and wood ticks differ greatly in size: the mature deer tick measures approximately half the size of the wood tick. As such, wood ticks are found more easily on their hosts and are typically removed in a timely manner.

While the Rocky Mountain wood ticks are known transmitters of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, tick paralysis, and ehrlichiosis, they are not known as carriers of Lyme disease. Deer ticks are notorious for being the chief vector of Lyme disease in humans and animals.