Q: What has four legs and ticks?
A. A dog
Top Tick Facts
Here are some interesting facts and information about ticks:
- A hard tick seeks a blood meal at, or slightly above, ground level by climbing onto vegetation and using its forelegs to feel/grab for a host. Ticks are usually found from ground level to three feet above the ground. A tick uses carbon dioxide, scent, body heat, and other stimuli to find a host.
- Ticks are blood sucking external parasites that feed on humans, wild and domestic mammals, birds, reptiles and others. They are totally dependent on the blood/tissue fluids of the host. The longer an infective tick feeds, the greater the chance of infection.
- Ticks are not insects. Ticks have eight legs as an adult and two body segments, whereas insects have six legs as an adult and three body segments. Ticks are arachnids, as are chiggers, spiders and mites.
- Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The egg hatches into a larva. A larva (”seed” tick) has six legs. It feeds and molts into a nymph. A nymph has eight legs and no sex differentiation. It then feeds and molts into an adult. The adult is differentiated into male or female. The female requires a blood meal in order to lay eggs.
- To be infective (capable of acquiring and transmitting infection) the tick must be able to maintain the infection through a molt. Ticks vary in their ability to do this. For example, dog ticks can acquire the pathogen that causes Lyme Disease – so they can be “infected”. But, they can not maintain the infection as they molt from one stage to another. Therefore, they are not “infective”.
- Although the number of tick species is in the hundreds, there are relatively few ticks that interact with mankind and domestic animals. While most ticks limit their host selection others are opportunistic feeders and will feed on almost any accessible host. A tick which feeds on a select host group will move infective agents within that group. However, when a tick is a nonselective feeder, it can transmit disease agents from one host group to another. These nonselective ticks pose the largest threat of infection to man.
- Besides the body types associated with different tick species, each species has a distinguishing characteristic called a shield. The shield is an area just behind the mouthpart and is a key part of tick identification.
- Even experts find it difficult to distinguish the Ixodes ticks based on physical characteristics alone since a large part of identification relies on the geographical location they inhabit. When the female tick engorges with blood, her change in both size and color is so significant that she is practically unrecognizable compared to her previous appearance.
- If you find a tick on your pet or on yourself, it is important to know how long the tick fed before you discovered it. Was the tick flat (meaning it attached recently) or engorged (meaning it had fed for an extended time)? Research conducted at Ohio State University has indicated that transmission of Lyme Disease begins at approximately 24 hours after tick attachment. Other diseases may vary.
- Proper tick feeding stage identification can assist you in making a decision on whether to visit your doctor if you find a tick on yourself. The decision is yours. If you keep the tick to show your doctor, protect it from dehydration by wrapping it in a damp (not wet) paper towel. Should dehydration of the tick occur, it can be extremely difficult to identify.
- Ticks don’t fly, jump, or blow around with the wind. They are small, simple in their approach to locating a host, and very patient. Their purpose in life is to propagate their species. They don’t feed often but when they do they can acquire disease agents from one host and pass those disease agents to another host at a later feeding. Their sensory organs are complex and they 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.
- Ticks generally are not born with disease agents but rather acquire them during feeding. They then pass the disease onto other animals during subsequent feedings. Infections that are transmitted from animals to humans are called zoonotic diseases. Lyme Disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, and tularemia are examples of such diseases.
- Ticks have life cycles that involve four distinct life stages: egg, larval (infant), nymph (immature), and adult (mature). The ticks known for the greatest quantity of disease infections are the Ixodes group. The group consists of many ticks but the ones of most concern are Ixodes scapolarius, Ixodes pacificus, Ixodes damini, and Ixodes ricionoiuse.
- There are over 850 tick species, about 100 of which are capable of transmitting diseases. In the U.S. five genera, Amblyomma (e.g. lone star tick), Dermacentor (e.g. American dog, Rocky Mountain wood, pacific coast ticks), Ixodes (e.g. black-legged, Western black-legged ticks), Ornithodoros, and Rhipicephalus (e.g. brown dog tick) transmit to humans the vast majority of diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and toxins. Multiple diseases can be contracted from a single tick bite.