Monthly Archives: May 2017
It seems that ticks are getting a lot of press coverage lately due to their potential to transmit diseases such as Lyme disease and Powassan. 2017 is forecasted to have higher than normal tick populations leaving many people wondering what options they have for tick control. In this blog, we are going to provide a broad overview on ticks and discuss methods of tick control.
What is a Tick?
Ticks are parasites that attach themselves to a host and feed on the host’s blood. They are part of the arachnid family, meaning they have eight legs, like spiders. Ticks are vectors of several tick-borne illnesses that affect both humans and animals.
What is the Life Cycle of a Tick?
Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. It’s important to understand the time of year each stage occurs so that optimal tick control methods can be used to target the predominate life cycle stage.
The first stage is the egg stage. An adult female tick will typically breed while on a host animal and then drop to the ground to lay eggs. A female tick can lay several thousand eggs at a time, which will eventually hatch into the second stage.
The second stage is the larval stage. At this stage a tick will be very small, less than an eighth of an inch and will only have six legs. It will look for a host, typically mice at this stage, and feed for several days before falling off and molting into the third stage.
The third stage is the nymph stage. At this stage a nymph tick will molt from the larval stage (having six legs) to the nymph stage (having eight legs.) After this molting occurs it will then start looking for its next meal. A nymph tick will prefer animals like racoons and possums, but will also attached to larger hosts, such as humans, when given the opportunity. Like the larval stage, after it has fed for a few days, it will fall off, molt and advance to the final stage of its life.
The final stage: Adult. At this stage the adult tick will feed for the third time on even larger animals such as deer, dogs, or humans. This is where they will feed and breed before dropping off and laying eggs to start the cycle over again.
Where do ticks live?
Ticks prefer shady and damp areas such as wooded areas, brushy fields with tall grass, ornamental landscaping beds and leaf or wood piles around your property. Any type of tick control application should target these areas. Ticks do not run, jump, fly, blow through the wind or travel great distances on their own. They travel on host animals, mainly mice and small rodents. They are very slow moving, patient and have an incredible ability to locate their hosts/prey. They select sites that warm-blooded mammals travel regularly to provide a better opportunity for contact with prey. Typically, on the end of low lying branches or the tips of ornamental shrubs and plants where they can grab onto an unsuspecting host walking by.
You may occasionally find ticks in your lawn as they drop off a host, but they do not prefer to be there. Maintained lawns typically get direct sunlight to the soil, making the habitat too dry for ticks.
What happens when a tick bites me?
You will not feel the tick actually bite you. After they bite they can secrete anesthetic properties from their saliva resulting in the person or animal not feeling it. Depending on the species of tick, it can take anywhere from ten minutes to two hours before it feeds. A tick will cut into the skin and then embed themselves in to the flesh. They will stay attached for several days feeding on your blood. Small amounts of saliva from the tick may also enter the skin of the host during the feeding process. If the tick contains a pathogen, the organism may be transmitted to the host in this way. If the tick has fed and falls off, you may notice a small red mark and it may also itch.
How do I remove a tick safely?
Ticks that are attached to the skin should be removed as soon as possible. Follow these tips for safe removal of a tick.
- Take a clean set of finely tipped tweezers. Grasp the tick by its head as close to the surface of the skin as possible.
- Once grasped pull the tick upwards with a steady even pressure. Do not jerk or twist the tick. This can break the mouth parts off and remain in the skin.
- After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and wash your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.
What kind of diseases can ticks carry and pass on to me?
Most people are very familiar with the fact that Lyme disease can be transmitted by ticks, but over the last few months the Powassan virus has been in the spotlight. We will start by discussing Lyme disease.
A tick must have taken an initial blood meal to transmit Lyme disease. At least thirty-six to forty-eight hours of feeding is required to have transmitted the bacterium that causes Lyme disease to a human. After this amount of time passes, the tick will be engorged (full of blood). After a tick bite, monitor the area closely, if the Lyme disease was passed on from the tick to the host, a “bullseye” pattern will appear at the site of the bite. This is a clear indication of Lyme disease and it is best to seek medical help.
Powassan virus is a rare disease that can also be transmitted by ticks. In the past ten years, there’s been approximately 75 confirmed cases in the Northeast, three of which were in New Jersey. The disease can cause neurological damage and even death in some cases. Given that this year is predicted to have higher tick populations, there has been increased emphasis on tick control to reduce your chances of getting bit.
There are many other types of diseases spread by ticks. If you are bitten by a tick, become sick soon after and you believe you or your pet has contracted an illness, you should seek professional care immediately.
Fairway Green Inc. offers a four-step tick control program starting in the spring and ending in the fall. We time our tick control applications with the various stages of a tick’s life cycle to help reduce the population around your property. The first application is a liquid treatment targeting adult ticks. The timing of our second tick control application is in conjunction with the nymph life cycle, which is why we utilize a granular application that targets both adults and nymphs. The third treatment is a liquid treatment that covers low lying nymphs as well as adults. The last tick control treatment in the fall is also liquid and targets adult ticks, which is the fourth and final life stage in a tick’s life cycle.
In conjunction with regular tick control applications from a professional lawn or tree care company there are several other steps you can take in your fight against ticks. Keep your family pets tick free with the use of tick control collars, dips or powders. Check your animals regularly and remove any ticks you may find. Check children and yourself thoroughly after outdoor activities. You can also contact your local health department or a cooperative extension service in your county for more information on ticks and any health hazards associated with them.
Tick populations are predicted to be higher than normal this year so be sure to monitor regularly, especially if you were outside in favorable tick habitat. If you’re interested in tick control and are in our service area, please feel free to call us at 908-281-7888 for more information.