Ticks – Hardly an Innocent Pest

Ticks are extremely small and dangerous parasites. After the mosquito, the tick is the largest transmitter of human diseases. The reason why the tick transmits so many diseases is because it feeds off blood. The tick will eat birds and mammals blood, posing a threat to humans and animals alike.

There are two families of ticks, the hard tick and the soft tick. All ticks have eight legs and a round shape to them. The hard tick is very common in the U.S and is recognized by its body’s hard exterior. Some of the most popular types of hard ticks include the brown dog tick, American dog tick, Rocky Mountain wood tick, deer tick, and lone star tick. Each of these ticks has some distinctions from one another. Here are a few traits of each type of tick:

  • Brown dog ticks can survive indoors. They feed on dogs more than any other type of animal and only the female body expands when feeding.
  • American dog tick is shaped like an egg and has white markings behind the head. It’s known for carrying the disease Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Rocky Mountain wood tick is mostly found in the Rocky Mountains and in Canada. The male is brown in color but when it becomes engorged with blood, the sack becomes gray. The female is mostly all gray including the sack.
  • Deer tick is shaped like a teardrop, dark in color, and most well-known for being the main carrier of Lyme disease.
  • Lone star tick is a carrier of Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia. The female has a white spot in the center of her body while the male has many spots in a “U” shape on its backside.

Ticks can be found outside or within a home. Outside, they can be found in grass, wooded areas, meadows, shrubs, and near bodies of water where animals can be found. People hiking, camping or just enjoying the outdoors should always be cautious of ticks because they can feel a human’s heat when it is near. Often times they are found near trails on the trees and plants, so staying in the center of the path can help prevent getting bitten. Leaning on a tree to tie your shoe is a perfect example of how a tick can attach itself to a person. Even in your backyard a tick can attach to a pet and then be brought into the house. This is the most common way for a tick to enter a home. Ticks only crawl; they do not have wings to fly nor do they jump. Therefore they either crawl into a home through a small opening or attach to a moving object, whether it’s a person or animal. Ticks are more active in the spring and summer because they like warm weather.


Ticks become quite enlarged after feeding. This photo shows just how large a tick can get. After some time, the expanded body will deflate to the tick's normal size.

Ticks are always looking for a new host to feed on. Some types of ticks will feed on a host for an hour or less; while other ticks can feed on a host for a few days. During the feeding period, a tick will actually expand in size as they fill up with blood. Once the feeding is finished, the tick will drop from the host.

Another thing that a tick does while feeding is mate. Once the mating has happened the female will drop off the host and set down her eggs. The female tick reproduces at a high rate, anywhere from 1,000-5,000 eggs on average. The eggs will shortly become larvae, also called seed ticks. The seed ticks can sometimes be more dangerous for people and animals, because there are so many of them in need of food. During the larvae period they will need to find a host to feed on. At this stage the tick only has six legs; once the tick has had its first feeding it will grow its last two legs. Once the tick has all eight of its legs, the tick is a nymph. The tick will continue to develop into an adult and the cycle will repeat itself.

Picture from www.creativecommons.org

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