Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids, like scorpions, spiders and mites. All ticks have four pairs of legs as adults and no antennae. Ticks eat only the blood of animals and humans. They do so by embedding their mouth parts into the skin of their prey and sucking its blood. This is a painless process, so a feeding tick may go unnoticed for a considerable time. Ticks take several days to complete feeding.
Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees). When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump.
Ticks are a concern because they are among the most efficient carriers of disease. They carry many diseases that can be harmful to cats, dogs, and humans, including Lyme disease, rocky mountain spotted fever (RMSF), human granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA), tularemia, and ehrlichiosis.
If you or your pet brings a tick into your home, it can turn into an infestation once the tick reproduces. Ticks can lay their eggs all over the home, but they typically do so in the cracks between floorboards. If you find a large number of ticks on your body and/or your pet, or one of your family members develop signs of a tick-borne illness, you may have an infestation.
Types of Ticks
Although at least 15 species of ticks exist in Illinois, only a few of these ticks are likely to be encountered by people: the American dog tick, lone star tick, black legged (deer) tick and brown dog tick.
AMERICAN DOG 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 also 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 1/2 inch long after feeding. 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.
In Illinois, the adults are most active in April, May and June. By September, the adults are inactive and are rarely observed.
BLACK LEGGED TICK (DEER TICK)
The black legged/deer tick will feed on a variety of hosts, including people. After their eggs hatch in the spring, the very tiny larvae feed primarily on mice and 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. They have been found sporadically in many Illinois counties. However, in recent years it has been common only in limited areas, mostly in northern Illinois. Additionally, Illinois residents may encounter them during trips to Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin or the northeastern United States where it is very common in some areas.
BROWN DOG TICK
The brown dog tick (also known as the kennel tick) is found through most of the United States. This tick feeds on dogs, but rarely bites people. Unlike 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 1/2 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 Illinois winters outdoors. The brown dog tick is not an important carrier of human disease.
LONE STAR TICK
The lone star tick is primarily found in the southern half of Illinois, 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 the size of a pinhead. 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.
How to Remove a Tick
Remove a tick as soon as possible after you discover it. If removed improperly, the mouth parts of a tick may remain embedded and lead to infection. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Do not twist or jerk the tick. If tweezers are not available, grasp the tick with a piece of tissue, cloth or whatever can be used as a barrier between your fingers and the tick. Do not use bare hands to remove the tick because tick secretions may carry diseases. Do not burn the tick with a match or cover it with petroleum jelly, alcohol or oil.
Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, sticking them to tape or flushing them down the toilet. If you want to have the tick identified, put it in a small vial of alcohol.
Aerex Has the Solution
Aerex technicians understand the habits of each tick species and use that knowledge when developing a tick control program that is best suited to your home and your particular tick problem. Our technicians are professional, state certified, licensed applicators.
At Aerex we pride ourselves on fast, responsive service every day. All appointments are scheduled at times that are convenient for you. Call us for a free consultation at 847-255-8888.
Did you know
Tick’s sensory organs are complex and can detect trace amounts of gases such as carbon dioxide produced by warm blooded animals. They can sense the potential host’s presence from long distances and even select their ambush site based upon their ability to identify paths that are well traveled.