Ticks are arachnids that feed on the blood of mammals like deer, dogs and people. Their presence is a source of discomfort to most, and they are known carriers of serious illnesses. Because of their potential threat to human and animal health, it is vital to have a tick infestation treated by a professional pest control company.
Several species of tick are common in Bucks County and throughout most of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The most frequently seen are the blacklegged tick, lone star tick and the American dog tick. In general, all ticks have flat bodies and eight legs.
Female blacklegged ticks are easy to distinguish from males because of their reddish-brown coloration. Males are smaller and darker. Also known as the deer tick, the female is about three to five millimeters in length when unfed. Engorged females may grow to be 10 millimeters in length.
Lone star ticks have brown bodies that change to gray when they are engorged. Females have a single white spot in the center of their back while males may display several white streaks or spots on the perimeter of their bodies. Females average between four and six millimeters in length, but can become as much as 16 millimeters when engorged. Males are much smaller.
American dog ticks, which also may be called wood ticks, have gray bodies. Females are about five millimeters long while males measure slightly over three millimeters. A fully engorged female may grow to be as much as one and-a-half centimeters in length.
Ticks feed exclusively on the blood of mammals. Some members of the species, like the male blacklegged tick, can survive as long as two to three years without a meal.
Ticks are frequently encountered in forested areas that are brushy and dense. Humidity levels in these habitats are ideal for this species. They typically cling to plants and grasses as they seek a host. When white-tailed deer, white-footed mice, cattle, dogs, coyotes and other potential hosts are present, ticks are generally seen as well.
While ticks are most commonly seen in forested areas, they may seek hosts closer to human habitations. Thus, ticks may be found in residential gardens or concealed in piles of leaves. Any dense brush or other vegetation similarly may provide habitat to ticks.
PROBLEMS WITH TICKS
Many people are troubled psychologically by the presence of a blood-sucking arachnid. Additionally, a tick bite can be painful, itchy or cause general skin irritation. The real problem with the tick, however, is that they carry and transmit illnesses. Some of these, like Lyme disease, can be serious and difficult to treat.
Ticks in the adult and nymph stages tend to be most active in the spring through the fall or as long as temperatures remain above freezing. Some species are able to survive freezing temperatures with ease and do not need to feed during this period. In the spring, they will begin questing for a host.
Because ticks cannot jump, their "questing" consists of placing themselves on blades of grass or on plants so that they will be at an appropriate height to latch on to a host. Ticks sense biochemical signals that alert them to a passing host. They can attach themselves to an animal, and they may use the host for feeding and as a place for mating. Eggs usually fall off of the host to land in bedding where they remain until hatching.
The lone star tick is known to be a particularly aggressive biter. Nonetheless, any of the tick species that are common to Pennsylvania and New Jersey may bite humans and pets.
While the lone star tick and the American dog tick do not transmit Lyme disease, the blacklegged tick does. A bacterial infection that has symptoms that are similar to many other conditions, Lyme disease can affect any of the body's major organs. A pregnant woman who becomes infected may pass the condition on to her fetus. Early symptoms are similar to those of the flu, but are accompanied by a rash shaped like a bullseye.
Most ticks may transmit other illnesses like tularemia, the effects of which range from mild to life-threatening, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which can cause permanent damage to the organs. Any of these conditions requires the immediate and ongoing care of a physician.
SIGNS OF A TICK INFESTATION
The following signs may indicate the presence of ticks:
• Unexplained skin irritation on people and pets
• Constant scratching by pets
• Visual sightings of ticks in bedding and on furniture
• Lethargy and flu-like symptoms, which may indicate a tick-borne illness
To help protect against ticks following these preventative steps:
• Keep lawns mowed
• Clear brush away from property
• Keep leaf and other vegetation piles well away from structures
• Avoid heavily forested areas
• Conduct a visual inspection for attached ticks after visiting wooded areas
• Take a shower and bathe pets after spending time outdoors
• Use insect repellants on people and pets
• Wear long pants and shirts with long sleeves
• Seal cracks and crevices in structures
Ticks can become a health hazard to humans and pets. Nevertheless, Bucks County home and business owners can protect themselves by dramatically reducing exposure to them with a professional tick control service.