“Look out for Ticks this Summer!”
As an Extension Agent, we often make farm visits to assist with issues on farms, many times with new farm ownership. One recent farm visit turned out to be a “tick fest”… on all the animals as well as humans. As a result, our conversation quickly turned to pest control of ticks.
From the larval to the adult stages, ticks attach to a living host and feed on the host’s blood. In doing so, they may transmit germs that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease, both of which can have serious consequences for humans. The N.C. Cooperative Extension has an excellent publication on tick control (www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/ticks.htm) and here is some information from that article.
Biological Characteristics of Ticks
Ticks are related to mites and spiders. They have four stages of development — the egg, larval, nymph, and adult stages. After hatching from the egg, the tick must take a blood meal to complete each stage in its life cycle. Each stage of the tick usually takes a blood meal from a different host. For most ticks, each blood meal is taken from a different type of host.
Ticks are usually active in the spring, summer, and fall; however, the adults of some species are active in the winter. When seeking a blood meal, ticks move from leaf litter, from a crack or crevice along a building foundation, or from another secluded place to grass or shrubs where they attach themselves to an animal as it passes. If a host is not found by fall, most species of ticks move into sheltered sites where they become inactive until spring. Once it is on a host, a tick crawls upward in search of a place on the skin where it can attach to take a blood meal. The tick’s mouth parts are barbed, making it difficult to remove the tick from the skin. In addition, the tick manufactures a glue to hold the mouthparts in place. The female mates while attached to a host and usually feeds for 8 to 12 days until it is full. By the time it finishes feeding, the female may increase in weight by 100 times. A male tick may attach, but it does not feed as long as the female. The male tick may mate several times before dying. The female, after mating and feeding, drops to the ground where it lays a mass of eggs in a secluded place such as in a crevice or under leaf litter. Shortly after laying an egg mass, which may contain thousands of eggs, the female dies. The eggs hatch in about two weeks, and the life cycle begins again. Depending upon the species of tick, the life cycle may take as little as a few months or as much as two years.
There are several types of ticks: American Dog Tick, Brown Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, and the Black-Legged Tick.
How to Protect Yourself from Ticks
Procedure for Removing Ticks
Ticks and Pets
Pets may transport ticks into the family living area, so inspect them frequently for ticks. Remove attached ticks from pets using the same procedures described for people. Control ticks on pets using flea-tick collars and powder or liquid formulations of pesticides. In addition, several safe and effective pesticides can control ticks in pet quarters. Contact us at the Cooperative Extension for advice on pesticides or you can check the NC Agricultural Chemicals Manual .
Controlling Ticks on Home Grounds and in Public-Use Areas
For more information on summer pests, give us a call at the Cooperative Extension Center, 919-496-3344.
by: Martha L. Mobley
Agricultural Extension Agent