Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Safety - Tick Season is Here

Tick season is here now and horticultural empoyees should take time to learn about these pests, tick avoidance, and tick removal. The following is information on ticks.

The tick is an arthropod--a relative of insects. The most common ticks found in Delaware are the American dog tick, the brown dog tick and the black-legged tick. The American dog tick, often called the eastern wood tick, rarely invades the home in large numbers. However, the brown dog tick can become a serious household pest in those homes with pets. The deer tick will bite humans as well as domestic animals, but it is generally an outdoor tick.

Life history and habits

Ticks have a four-stage life cycle. The egg hatches into a six-legged larva, or seed tick. After a blood meal, the larva molts (sheds its skin) and becomes an eight-legged nymph. After another blood meal, the nymph molts and becomes an adult. The adult female then attaches to a warm-blooded animal, engorges on blood, mates, leaves the host animal, deposits several thousand eggs and dies. Adults can live a year or more without feeding, but they must feed before mating.

The American dog tick is widely distributed east of the Rocky Mountains and on the Pacific coast. Dogs are the preferred host of the adult tick, but humans and many other animals are frequently attacked. Because larvae and nymphs prefer to feed on mice, rats and rabbits, this tick does not become established as a household pest. The American dog tick is responsible for spreading Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

The brown dog tick differs from the American dog tick primarily in its feeding habits. It feeds almost exclusively on dogs and rarely attacks humans. In all stages it is commonly found on the ears, the back of the neck, and between the toes of dogs. After feeding, the ticks drop off the host and conceal themselves in any available crack or crevice. Because of their strong tendency to climb, they are often found on furniture and behind window frames and moldings.

A smaller tick known as the deer tick has been found on humans and pets. It is associated with areas supporting large rodent rodents as well as deer. Although smaller than the dog tick, its bite is painful because its mouth parts have tiny barbs to anchor it securely. The barbs make removal difficult; they often remain in the skin, causing local infection. This tick is a carrier of a Lyme disease pathogen that causes arthritis-type symptoms and, if not treated, can affect the liver, heart, and lungs.

Identification of a tick found on a person or pet is often difficult. If the tick has been feeding and is engorged, identification is even more difficult. The American dog tick can be distinguished from the brown dog tick by the white mottled shield (scutum) on its back, behind the head.
Brown dog ticks have a shield but it lacks the lighter markings. The deer tick also lacks a color pattern and it is distinctly sbeing no larger than the period at the end of this sentenceavoid ticks, tuck trousers into boots or socks when outside. Search all areas of your body at least daily if you frequent tinfested areas. The deer tick control should eliminate the nymphs since this stage is most likely to transmit Lyme disease. The larval stage is incredibly small--no larger than the period at the end of this sentence (omit – already said this). Sprays with approved insecticides provide some control but don't take such measures unless infestations are confirmed. Always use a repellent and check for ticks on your body.

Tick removal

The best method to remove ticks from a person or pets is with a slow, steady pull. Get the capitulum (mouth parts) out with the rest of the tick. Tweezers work well, especially in removing deer ticks. Place the tweezers as close to the point of attachment as possible and pull steadily away from the skin. An antiseptic will prevent infection and reduce irritation. We can't recommend using fingernail polish, chloroform, ether, gasoline, kerosene, a hot match or needle or a glowing cigarette. These methods can cause more serious injury than the bite itself.

Extracted from the fact sheet "Tick Control" by Dewey M. Caron, Extension Entomologist, UD

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