As spring gives way to summer, tick season in the Midwest starts anew. Few pests inspire the kind of paranoia and anxiety as ticks do. Not only do they latch onto your skin and suck your blood, they transmit diseases too? AND they come after pets!? What is their problem?!
The tick you’re probably the most familiar with is the so-called “wood tick.” The problem is, you probably don’t know too much more about this nasty little thing. If you learn the answers to a couple of nipping (sorry) tick questions, you’ll feel better prepared to handle the season. Here’s everything you should know about wood ticks.
What are wood ticks?
The common name “wood tick” usually refers to the American dog tick. These ticks have wide, oval-shaped, flat bodies. They’re a distinct bright reddish-brown color with grey or silver, patterned coloration on their bodies and backs. They grow to about 3/16 of an inch long.
Female wood ticks have a silver-colored spot behind their heads. They may become bloated after a bloodmeal. Males tend to be a little smaller than females. They have fine silver or white lines on their backs, and don’t get larger after feeding. Larvae have six legs; male and female adults have eight.
Where do wood ticks live?
American dog ticks are widely distributed throughout the Midwest and most common in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Ticks like humid places with abundant vegetation. They don’t generally infest buildings. If you find a tick inside, chances are it fell off a host.
Tick gravitate toward places where they can find hosts, so pets and livestock may attract them. It’s possible that ticks can follow animal odors. Ticks commonly perch on grass, shrubs, and other low-to-mid-length vegetation where they can jump onto nearby hosts.
Are wood ticks dangerous?
Scientists do not consider wood ticks a vector for Lyme disease transmission. American dog ticks are the primary transmitters of Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), however, RMSF is an infectious disease that targets peripheral blood vessels. Symptoms appear 2-14 days after transmission and include fever, nausea, muscle pain, and a rash around the wrists and ankles.
RMSF is treatable, but it can be a severe illness. The American dog tick can also transmit Tularemia, and may inflict tick paralysis. It takes a minimum of six to eight hours of constant contact for a tick to transmit a disease, so quick identification and removal of an attached tick is crucial.
How can I tell if me or my pet have been bitten?
Check for ticks after spending time outside. Ticks can latch on anywhere, but they’re partial to low, moist, or warm areas. Generally, ticks hop onto feet, ankles, or legs. They can also climb up bodies to find a good spot or hide in hair.
Contrary to rumor, ticks do not “burrow” under skin when they attach to a host. You should be able to see attached ticks on the surface of skin or under hair. If you can’t see any ticks, look for bumps on the skin, especially red dots about the size of a dime. Tick bites sometimes resemble spider bites.
What should I do if a wood tick bites me?
Use a tweezer 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. You should wash and treat this wound, but it isn’t different from an ordinary cut.
Consider writing down when you removed the tick and preserving it in alcohol. If you develop infection symptoms, you can bring the tick to your doctor for identification. After the tick is removed, or if you found a bite without a tick, wash the area with soap and water. Then, apply disinfectant and antiseptic ointment to the site of the bite.
Check yourself and your pet after you go out, especially if you’re camping or walking in wooded areas. Trim tall grass, hedges, and shrubs. Trim branches until they don’t touch your home. Apply anti-tick ointment to your pet every tick season. Tick larvae or nymphs often enter property on rodents, so be sure to take care of any rodent infestations.
When you go out, apply tick repellant and wear relatively tight-fitting clothing. Avoid overgrown paths when possible. When you get home, throw your clothing in the dryer on high for up to ten minutes, to kill ticks that may have snuck in with you.
Ticks may seem a bit like the science fiction monster of pests, but if you know how to protect yourself, they don’t need to be something that keeps you up at night. Keep in mind these tips and take good care of yourself and your pet, and ticks are just another pest that’s no match for you.
If you end up with a particular tick problem in your home (which can happen, even if it’s unlikely) or around your property, give us a call today. We specialize in the removal of annoying little bloodsuckers. (Little ones…no vampires.)