We all venture into the woods from time to time. Some of us may go on a leisurely stroll, while others may set up camp and stay out under the stars for a few nights. Either way, there’s a probability that the leisurely walker or the nighttime stargazer may get bitten by a tick. There’s no need to be afraid. There is need, though, to be knowledgeable about what you’re dealing with and how you can be proactive against getting bit.
What Are Ticks?
Ticks are arachnids, not insects. They crawl, have eight legs, and are related to spiders and mites. They are parasites, living on and needing their hosts for survival. These hosts can be humans or nearly any animal, either wild, such as deer, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, birds, and lizards, or domesticated, such as dogs, cats, pigs, cattle, and horses.
Ticks are vectors, or carriers of Lyme disease, as they feed on Lyme disease-infested animals and then carry and transit the Lyme bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) to the next animal or person they bite.
Do Ticks Need Blood to Survive?
After hatching from their eggs, ticks must eat blood at all life stages, whether they are their six-legged larvae, eight-legged nymph, or eight-legged adult selves. Most ticks prefer to skip around and live on a different host animal at each stage of their life.
How Big Are Ticks?
In my mind, a tick is about the size of an apple seed. But, this is only true if it is an adult tick. Nymphs are about the size of poppy seeds and larvae are about the size of a grain of sand.
Most people with Lyme disease are bitten by the poppy-seed size of ticks—the nymphs. Adult ticks also carry the bacteria, but these apple-seed-sized ticks are much easier to see and remove (before transmission of the bacteria has occurred).
How Do Ticks Find a Host?
Ticks are cheeky little bloodsuckers. They have a keen sense of smell and are able to detect animals’ breath and body odors. They can also sense body heat, moisture, and vibrations.
They smell, they sense, and then they wait. Ticks can’t fly or jump, but they sure do know how to wait, making a difficult, tiring search for a host by patiently holding onto leaves or grass by their third and fourth pair of legs. Then, with their first pair of legs outstretched, unbeknownst to the host, they quickly climb onto their next meal.
What Do I Do If I Find a Tick on Me?
There are quite a few myths that circulate about tick removal, including that you should remove a tick with a heat source, petroleum jelly, nail polish, or a chemical. Do you know what’s true? Do you know what the best method is for tick-removal? We disclose the details in True or False: Bug Myths Revealed.
Do All Ticks Carry Lyme Disease?
Depending on where you live, visit, or vacation, anywhere from less than 1% to more than 50% of the ticks you encounter are infected with Lyme disease. So, no, not all ticks carry Lyme disease. It is only the black-legged deer tick and the western black-legged tick that do.
Where Are Ticks Found?
The two types of ticks that carry Lyme disease are found in the following areas within the United States:
- The black-legged deer tick is prevalent in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, and North-Central parts of the United States.
- The western black-legged tick is prevalent in the pacific coastal parts of the United States.
It’s important to note, though, that ticks carrying Lyme disease have been reported in every climate, in every continent, including all 50 states. There’s no getting away from these little terrors.
The states with the most tick bites, and thus highest cases of Lyme disease reported, include Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maine, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Maryland, Connecticut, and Virginia.
How Can Dr. Killigan’s Help?
Dr. Killigan’s is in the business of restoring peace and sanity to your homes. This includes bringing peace to your pets.
Six Feet Under is one way of doing that, as dogs are very susceptible to tick bites. Six Feet Under is a non-toxic spray that will ward ticks away from your beloved furry friends. Spray it on your pet before and after an outing into the deep, dark woods. Apply it on their cozy bed too. Together, let’s keep those miscreants far, far away.