Growing up and playing for endless hours in the woods of the beautiful state of Iowa it wasn’t unusual to find a tick in your hair or in some other surprising spot from time to time. It always amazed me however that I rarely felt this ugly creature crawling on me let alone biting and attaching itself to me for hours or even days. (you definitely felt it when you pulled it out). Our pets would get ticks too and they would be so HUGE. Without any modern sprays or treatments we devised our own methods of exterminating these bloodsuckers. Lets just say it involved tools like, matches,magnifying glasses and ball peen hammers. It’s a good thing congress never caught wind of this or we might have been brought up on charges of torture to the enemy.
Even though every year ticks make national if not world wide news for the spread of Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other diseases they represent only a very small percentage of work for licensed pest control operators. That trend is changing however. Reported cases of Lyme disease doubled in the 90’s and are over 15,000 or more per year at present. With population growth and more and more homes being built in wooded areas this seems like it will only increase. As tick cases increase so should our understanding and awareness of the steps we can all take to keep them at manageable levels.
- There are over 850 tick species, about 100 of which are capable of transmitting diseases. Multiple diseases can be contracted from a single tick bite.
Ticks are bloodsucking external parasites that feed on humans, wild and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles and others. They are totally dependent on the blood/tissue fluids of the host. The longer an infective tick feeds, the greater the chance of infection.
Ticks are arachnids not insects. ( relatives of the spider,scorpion, chigger and mite.)
Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The egg hatches into a larva. A larva (”seed” tick) has six legs. It feeds and molts into a nymph. A nymph has eight legs and no sex differentiation. It then feeds and molts into an adult. The adult is differentiated into male or female. The female requires a blood meal in order to lay eggs.
Ticks that feed on humans are usually found from ground level to three feet above the ground. ( not high in trees )
A tick uses carbon dioxide, scent, body heat, and other stimuli to find a host.
Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding. Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease.
Ticks do not fly or jump.
Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area, known as a hypostome, that allows them to anchor themselves firmly in place while feeding. The hypostome has a series of barbs angled back, which is why they are so difficult to remove once they have penetrated a host.
The female adult Deer Tick can lay over 2000 eggs in one cluster.
Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45 degrees.
Ticks fully engorged with a blood meal can grow 7 to 10 times in size.
Ticks that affect humans
There are two groups of ticks, sometimes called the “hard” ticks and “soft” ticks. Hard ticks, like the common dog tick, have a hard shield just behind the mouth parts (sometimes incorrectly called the “head”); unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed. Soft ticks do not have the hard shield and they are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks prefer to feed on birds or bats and are seldom encountered unless these animals are nesting or roosting in an occupied building.
Although many different species of ticks occur in North America, only a few of these ticks are likely to be encountered by people: American dog tick, lone star tick, black legged (deer) tick, brown dog tick and winter tick.
One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog tick, also sometimes known as the wood tick. The larvae and nymphs feed on small warm-blooded animals such as mice and birds. The adult American dog tick will feed on humans and medium to large mammals such as raccoons and dogs. Unfed males and females are reddish-brown and about 3/16-inch long. Females have a large silver-colored spot behind the head and will become ½-inch long after feeding or about the size of a small grape. Males have fine silver lines on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. Males are sometimes mistaken for other species of ticks because they appear so different from the female. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.
The lone star tick is primarily found in the southern half of the U.S., although it can occasionally be found further north. Larvae, nymphs and adults will feed on a variety of warm-blooded hosts, including people. The larva is very tiny, only a little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The nymph, the most common stage found on people, is about pinhead-sized. Adults are about 1/8-inch long and brown. The adult female has a white spot in the middle of her back. Because they are so similar in size, the lone star tick is sometimes misidentified by laypersons as the black legged / deer tick. The lone star tick is most active from April through the end of July. Although it can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, the lone star tick is not as likely to transmit the disease as the American dog tick. This tick also may transmit tularemia and ehrlichiosis to humans. The lone star tick is not believed to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), but may be associated with a related bacteria species that has not been completely identified.
All three active stages of the black legged / deer tick will feed on a variety of hosts including people. After the eggs hatch in the spring, the very tiny larvae feed primarily on white-footed mice or other small mammals. The following spring, the larvae molt into pinhead-sized, brown nymphs that will feed on mice, larger warm-blooded animals and people. In the fall, they molt into adults that feed primarily on deer, with the females laying eggs the following spring. Adults are reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long (or about one-half the size of the more familiar female American dog tick). These ticks are found in wooded areas along trails. The larvae and nymphs are active in the spring and early summer; adults may be active in both the spring and fall. The black legged / deer tick can transmit Lyme disease and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.
The brown dog tick (also known as the kennel tick) is found through most of the U.S. This tick feeds on dogs, but rarely bites people. Unlike the other species of ticks, its life cycle allows it to survive and develop indoors. The brown dog tick is found primarily in kennels or homes with dogs where it may be found hiding in cracks, behind radiators, under rugs and furniture, and on draperies and walls. The adult is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long, and usually attaches around the ears or between the toes of a dog to feed. After feeding, a female may engorge to ½-inch long. She then drops off the dog and crawls into a hiding place where she may lay as many as 3,000 eggs. This tick is tropical in origin and does not survive winters outdoors. The brown dog tick is not an important carrier of human disease.
The winter tick is a species that feeds on large mammals like deer, cattle and horses. Unlike the hard ticks mentioned above, the winter tick attaches to the host as a larva and remains attached throughout its life. Consequently, this tick is rarely encountered by campers or hikers. However, hunters may find the winter tick in large numbers on deer carcasses. Although the winter tick may carry diseases of large wild mammals, it is not known to transmit disease to humans.
How to Treat for Ticks
Tick treatment can be rough. It’s best in any pest control endeavor to get to the source and attack the critters there. Well if you live in a wooded area or a tick outbreak occurs in your neighborhood it is most times impossible to get to the root of the infestation. Without treatment of the pets I’m afraid your waisting your time. You won’t be able to safely or economically get every single place a tick may be but at least you can treat where you’re sure they will go.
You’ll want to service for ticks almost as you would for fleas. Since ticks crawl you need to treat the floors and carpeted areas of the home. Products such as Conquer, Suspend SC, Ficam W or Demand CS all do a nice job on covering these areas. You need to add methropene in the mix also known as Pre Cor. This will help cut the life cycle of the tick giving greater control. For hardwood surfaces use Precor 2000 plus or Ultracide. These are aerosols and will not make the floors unnecessarily wet. Pay attention to all areas frequented by your pets as the ticks won’t be to far off. While ticks are digesting or not feeding some favorite spots to hide inside include; under couches, furniture legs, baseboards, cushions, bed frames and legs, cracks and crevices of pet cages, undisturbed low lying areas, etc.
May be a bit more difficult but lets try. You can use granules in your treatment but I hardly ever do. It just doesn’t seem to give quick relief and is limited to the soil surface for the most part. Liquid sprays will be your best bet and most do it yourself or home improvement stores sell many insecticides. Always read the labels and use accordingly. For the exterior try to find a product that is ready to use. Several sprays come in ready to use form, just hook up your hose and turn sprayer on. The correct amount is siphoned up and sprayed out until the product is all gone. Concentrate on spraying areas that the pets run and stay frequently. Ticks use pet trails most often to latch on to pets as they pass by. Small bushes or plants need to be treated as well. Also do a perimeter barrier around the yard. This may help for any wandering ticks. As well as spraying you should keep tall grass to a minimum by mowing or weed whacking fence line and near structures. This will reduce the points ticks need to successfully grab onto your pets.
Well no one said tick work would ever be glamorous and not many pest companies are building whole routes on tick work alone. But if you find you’re dealing with a monster of a problem it may be worth your time and money to have a professional bug person attack the problem for you.