Here we are again. It’s wood-tick season.
I imagine most folk think of ticks as insects. Well, they aren’t. In fact, they are related to spiders, scorpions, mites, and so on—all of which are classified as Arachnids.
Arachnids have either eight or 10 legs while insects get along with only six.
Most ticks have a life cycle something like this. The female lays several thousand eggs, often in the grass. They hatch in a week or two into what are called larvae.
These larvae do their best to attach themselves to a passing animal, dog, deer, or whatever. They feed on blood, then change to an eight-legged nymph.
These feed again, then drop off, and change into the adult form.
At this stage, they much prefer the larger animals (i.e., deer, cattle, and moose). The adult female attaches herself firmly to her “host,” where she takes in enough blood to make her swell up a great deal.
She may become one-half or three-quarters of an inch long, and look like a tiny blue garbage bag.
Mating takes place while she is attached. Then she drops off, lays her 5,00 or 6,000 eggs, and the cycle begins again.
A common tick on moose is the Moose Tick (Dermacentor albipictus), which also lives on cattle, horses, and deer. These are very large ticks, and sometimes can be found in very large numbers on animals in the fall.
A tick of the southern U.S. is the Cattle Tick (Boophilus annulatus). In warm climates, it breeds most of the year. Not only does this animal harm cattle directly, but it spreads a disease called Texas Fever.
Ranchers have to dip their cattle, and change pasture land, to keep this pest under control.
As far as I know, the most common tick in this part of the world is the Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis). As the name suggests, it attaches itself very easily to dogs, especially those with long hair.
This tick is not yet known to transmit any violent disease, but its close relative in the west, the Rocky Mountain Tick, can carry spotted fever to humans.
There are no completely adequate ways to deal with ticks. Just try to stay out of the long grass and low bushes, and keep your dog out, too, if you can.
If a tick has dug in, various methods of removal have been suggested. Bring a match, or a heated nail or a pin, up to the tick’s exposed end.
Some people say a few drops of gasoline or turpentine will do it.
The aim is to get the tick to release his hold by himself. If you just yank him off, some of his mouth parts may stay under your skin.
You always should use some kind of antiseptic after you remove a tick. Very few really bad diseases are present here, though Lyme disease has made an appearance from time to time.
Anyway, some minor infections can get under your skin, along with the tick.
Remember, you always should try to get every little bit of that tick out from under your skin if you can. And make sure your dog is as clean as can be, too.
Ticks are a real nuisance, for sure. But they are with us only for a fairly short season, so you only need to be really careful about them for about a month or so.
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