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05/16/17

As spring gives way to summer, tick season in the Midwest starts anew. Few pests inspire the kind of paranoia and anxiety as ticks; not only do they latch onto your skin and suck your blood… they transmit disease, too! Plus, these pesky pests have no qualms about attaching themselves to your four-legged pals.

The tick you’re probably most familiar with is the “wood tick.” However, you probably don’t know much more about them. Get the answers to a couple nipping tick questions to feel better prepared to handle the season. Here’s what you should know about wood ticks:

1. Wood Tick Identification

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What are wood ticks?

Dermacentor variabilis or wood tick or American dog tick, is a species of tick that is known to carry bacteria responsible for several diseases in humans. These diseases include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia. These diseases spread when the tick sucks blood from the host.

What do wood ticks look like?

These ticks have wide, oval-shaped, flat bodies. They are bright reddish-brown in color with grey or silver coloration on their bodies. They grow to about 3/16 of an inch long.

Female wood ticks have a silver-colored spot behind their heads. If you notice an engorged wood tick, it’s probably female; they become bloated after feeding. However, males tend to be a little smaller than females and have silver or white lines on their backs and do not get larger after feeding. Larvae have six legs, whereas adults have eight.

Where do wood ticks live?

Wood ticks are widely distributed throughout the Midwest and are most common in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Ticks like humid places with abundant vegetation. On the plus side, they don’t generally infest buildings!

Ticks will gravitate toward places where they can find hosts; pets and livestock may attract wood ticks. It is also possible that wood ticks follow animal odors. Ticks are commonly found perched on grass, shrubs, and other low-to-mid-length vegetation where they can easily jump onto nearby hosts.

2. Wood Tick Bites

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Do wood ticks carry Lyme disease?

No. Scientists do not consider wood ticks a vector for Lyme disease transmission. However, wood ticks are the primary transmitters of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Symptoms of RMSF appear 2-14 days after transmission and include fever, nausea, muscle pain, and a rash around the wrists and ankles.

Wood ticks can also transmit Tularemia. It takes a minimum of 6-8 hours of constant contact for a tick to transmit a disease, so quick identification and removal of an attached tick is crucial.

How do I identify a wood tick bite?

Tick bites often resemble spider bites; look for bumps on the skin, especially red dots that are about the size of a dime. You should always check for ticks after spending time outside. They can latch on anywhere but they are partial to moist and warm areas that are low on the body. Contrary to rumor, ticks do not “burrow’ under the skin; you should be able to see attached ticks on the surface of the skin or under hair.

What should I do if a wood tick bites me?

Remove the tick as soon as possible! Use a tweezers or forceps to grip the tick’s mouthparts near the attachment site. Pull straight back slowly and carefully to avoid ripping. Tick mouthparts are barbed, so when you remove the tick, you might pull some skin off with it. Once the tick is out, wash and treat the wound with soap and water and apply disinfectant or antiseptic ointment on the site of the bite.

Consider writing down when you removed the tick and preserving it in alcohol. If you develop infection symptoms, you can bring your tick to your doctor for identification.

3. Prevention and Wood Tick Services

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How do I prevent wood ticks?

Follow these tips to help keep wood ticks away from you, your family, and your pets:

  1. Check yourself and your pet after spending time in wooded areas.
  2. Trim tall grass, hedges, and shrubs in your yard.
  3. Trim tree branches so they don’t touch your home.
  4. Apply anti-tick ointment to your pet every tick season.
  5. Take care of rodent infestations. Larvae or nymphs often enter property on rodents.
  6. When you go out, apply tick repellent and wear tight-fitting clothing.
  7. Avoid overgrown paths when possible.
  8. Once you get home from spending time outside, throw your clothing in the dryer on high for about 10 minutes. This will kill ticks that may have snuck in with you on your clothes.

How can Plunkett’s help with my tick problem?

Tick problems and infestations are rare, however, they can happen. If you do end up with a tick issue in your home or on your property, give Plunkett’s a call today. We specialize in the removal of annoying bloodsuckers—just the little ones… no vampires.