Deer ticks feed on birds and small and large mammals, from deer mice to humans. Adults attach to white-tail deer for overwintering and do not move from host to host. Adults are not responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease.
Ticks are found in areas with dense foliage that allows ticks to perch, such as grassy areas, woodlands, and along hiking trails. Lawns with unkempt grass, damp leaf litter, and overgrown bushes provide environments for ticks to thrive. They generally perch on the tips of long blades of grass or shrubs with their forelegs outstretched. When an animal brushes past them, they let go of the plant and climb onto the host to feed. Since they also live on animal hosts, ticks can be found wherever mice, deer, and squirrels are abundant.
In the spring, engorged females drop off the host animal and lay 3,000 eggs in a protected area. The eggs hatch in 48-135 days. In June through September, the larva seeks and feeds on small rodents. After molting to the nymph stage, the ticks once again seek hosts to feed. Engorged nymphs molt to the adult stage, and feed on deer.
American Dog Tick
In June or July, the engorged female tick drops off the host animal and lays 4,000-6,500 yellow-brown eggs in a sheltered location which hatch in 36-57 days. The larva seeks rodents and other small animals for its blood meal. After molting to the nymph stage, the tick once again seeks hosts. The engorged nymphs molt to the adult stage which usually feeds on dogs and other large mammals. Development from egg to adult can be completed in three months, but each stage is remarkably resistant to starvation and the life cycle can be prolonged for up to two years. Unfed adults can live for two to three years.
Tick Disease Transmission
The American dog tick transmits Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and can cause tick-induced paralysis if it attaches near the base of the neck. The deer tick nymph is responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease, the most significant tick-borne disease within the United States.
Tick Prevention & Control
- Keep lawns mowed short and bushes trimmed.
- Take steps to ensure that common carriers of ticks, such as mice and deer, are not attracted to private properties.
- Clean up debris and keep piles of logs or brush away from homes.
- Clean up spilled birdseed and pet food that attracts common tick carriers.
- Secure garbage bins so that wild animals do not have access to easy sources of food.
- Wear light-colored clothing; tucking pant legs into socks, shirts into pants.
- When hiking, walk in the center of the trail to avoid overhanging grasses, weeds, and brush.
- Use tick repellent. Clothing repellents are generally better against ticks than skin repellents; however, using skin repellents is also beneficial.
- After returning from a hike or time outdoors, thoroughly inspect yourself and your pets. Since some ticks that may get on the body are very small, it is wise to have someone help you inspect for ticks. Don’t forget to check your clothing.
- Even if you don’t find ticks on your clothes, it is a good idea to immediately wash clothing in hot, soapy water and dry at the highest heat setting for about one hour. If you do not immediately launder and dry the clothes, place them into a clear, plastic bag prior to washing and laundering. After laundering, throw the empty bag into the outside trash container. If you find a tick in the process of feeding, remove it carefully, taking care not to puncture or squeeze the tick’s body.
If a tick is found in the skin:
- Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick firmly by the head and pull directly upward with steady, even force.
- Avoid twisting or squeezing the tick, which can puncture the tick’s body, because its body fluids may contain infectious organisms.
- After removing the tick, wash and disinfect the site and wash both hands thoroughly.
- Save the tick in a small, sealed vial or jar for later reference in case an illness develops.
If a tick is found indoors: Vacuum them up.
If a tick is found outdoors: Debris and ground cover around the area should be removed to discourage rodents and other small animal activity.
Professional Tick Treatment: A Batzner Service Specialist will identify the source of the ticks at your property and determine the proper treatment method – the interior or yard. Once treatment is applied, it may take up to three weeks for ticks to disappear. Preventative exterior treatment is also available to deter ticks from coming indoors.
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