How to Identify Ticks

Ticks inspire nausea in many people.Ticks are non-insect arthropods. Like spiders, they have 2 body parts and eight legs (Exception: the first stageafter hatching is called the larva and has 6 legs). Ticks are parasites and require blood meals to complete development. Female ticks are about 1/8 to3/16 of an inch long, usually reddish-brown in color, round to slightly oblong, and extremely flattened. They are hard-bodied and very difficult to crush. Males are slightly smaller with some slight color differences. An engorged female may be the size of a small grape, and grayish-green in color.

The Biology of Ticks

Ticks are outdoor, free-living organisms that spend their time waiting for a potential host. While waiting for a host they assume a questing position on tall grasses and shrubs. They hold onto the plant with their hind legs and fore outstretched. When a host brushes past they quickly let go and drop to the host which they latch onto with their forelegs. (Contrary to popular belief, they do not drop from trees).

After hatching, the first stage called the larva (with six legs) seeks a blood meal. This is mainly obtained from birds or small mammals or occasionally people. After feeding for 3-5 days, the engorged larva drops off to digest its meal and transform to the next stage called the nymph which has the normal eight legs. Nymphs will now seek larger prey including people. After engorging, the nymph molts to the adult stage. Adults feed on larger mammals, such as pets and people. After feeding, the female drops to the ground and lays her eggs which could number in the thousands. Ticks complete their life cycle in as little as one year to as long as three years.

There are four ticks commonly associated with people in North Carolina.  For further information, click on the links below.

American Dog Tick  ‖  Lone Star Tick  ‖  Black-legged/Deer Tick  ‖  Brown Dog Tick

Where do you See Ticks

Ticks are not normally seen until they are on you.  They spend most of their time on tall grasses or shrubs waiting for a host. However, the brown dog tick is able to complete its life cycle indoors at kennels or homes with dogs where thousands of larvae or nymphs could be seen crawling on the walls or ceilings.

Feeding Preferences of Ticks

All ticks require blood to complete their development.  Hosts includes birds, small mammals such as mice, shrews, or rats, pets, and people.

Ways to reduce the conditions that harbor ticks:

  • Keep weeds and tall grasses mowed around the house to discourage rodents hosts from becoming established.
  • Keep shrubs trimmed.
  • Reduce exposure around picnic tables, campsites, and hiking trails by removing leaf litter.
  • Severe tick infestations can be treated effectively with pesticides.

Ways to protect yourself from ticks:

  • Avoid Direct Contact
    • Avoid wooded or bushy areas with high grass and leaf litter.
    • Stay on wide paths and trails so weeds and grasses do not brush up against you.
  • Protect Yourself
    • Wear protective clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and a hat. (Ticks are easier to see while wearing light-colored clothing.) Tuck pants into socks. If necessary, tape area where socks and pants meet. Tuck shirt into pants.
    • Repel tick using repellents containing DEET on exposed skin.
    • Use products containing permethrin on clothing. Treat clothing and gear, such as boots, pants, and socks. If camping, treat the tent.
  • Find and Remove Ticks
    • Bathe or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors in order to wash off or more easily find ticks that are crawling on you.
    • Conduct a full body search using a hand-held or full-length mirror. Parents should check their children for ticks under arms, around the waist, behind the knees, in their hair, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, and between the legs.
    • Examine pets and gear.

Procedure for Removing Ticks

The risk of infection can be greatly reduced by promptly removing any ticks that may have attached themselves to the skin. Here is the best way to safely remove a tick.

  • Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick firmly with the tweezers as close to the skin as possible. Without twisting or turning, pull directly away from the point of contact, gradually increase the force until the tick pulls free.
  • If the tick’s mouthparts break off in the skin, use a sterilized needle to remove them much like removing a splinter.
  • Wash the area of the bite with soap and water and apply an antiseptic.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after removing the tick.
  • Mark the date of the bite on a calendar. If disease symptoms occur, you will be able to tell your physician when you were bitten.
  • Save the tick by preserving it in alcohol for identification if necessary.

For additional information, see www.ces.ncsu.edu/Insects/Urban/ticks.htm

Economy Exterminators’ Pest Elimination Plus program uses the 4-step approach to solve your tick problem:

  • Our 1st step is the inspection of the property by a Raleigh, Charlotte or Wilmington customer service specialist. It is very important to know the species involved and the severity of the problem.
  • The 2nd step is the initial treatment by a customer service specialist of all areas that the inspection revealed as critical areas. Economy Exterminators uses the newest and most effective materials to solve the pest problem quickly for you.
  • The 3rd step is a 37-point inspection of your property to identify areas that harbor tick populations.
  • The 4th step is an ongoing maintenance program for the next generation. New infestations will be moving onto your property from adjoining properties. Our exclusive pest control program is designed to prevent the next generation. And as always, our unlimited extra service is at no charge.


Image Source: BugGuideWikiSpecies

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