Ticks can carry and transmit vector-borne diseases such as tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. The Vector Control Program routinely collects, identifies and tests ticks for these diseases.
Ticks are blood-eating parasites that live and feed on mammals, birds and reptiles around the world. There are about 850 different types of ticks. There are two families, the soft and the hard.
Ticks have a rough structure which is used to break the skin of their host in order to feed on their blood. This rough structure has many beak-like projections on it. They have backward projections that make it hard to remove them from their host. Some types of ticks also create a cement-like substance which actually glues the tick to the host while it is feeding. After the tick is done, the substance dissolves.
Ticks look for hosts by what is called "questing". Questing ticks crawl up stems of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground with their front legs extended. When a potential host passes by their extended legs, the ticks climb onto them. Ticks feed for different amounts of time on their hosts, varying from a couple of hours to weeks, depending on the type of host and type of tick.
Ticks are known carries of diseases such as Lyme Disease and Tularemia.
Tick Life Cycle
- Egg: Adult female ticks lay eggs on the ground in the spring.
- Larva: In the summer, the eggs hatch into larvae. Then they attach to a host, begin feeding and over a few days, swell up with blood. Larvae feed on small mammals, deer and birds in the late summer and early fall.
- Nymph: After feeding, most larvae drop off their hosts and transform into nymphs in the fall. They stay there until the next spring. Nymphs then attach to their host and feed for 4 to 5 days, while swelling with blood. Nymphs feed on rodents, small mammals, birds and humans in the spring and summer.
- Adult: Once swollen, nymphs drop off their host and molts into an adult. Adult ticks seek new hosts in the fall, waiting up to 3 feet above the ground on the tips of grasses and shrubs, often along trails. Ticks do not jump or fly. Adult ticks feed on deer, humans, dogs, cats, horses and other animals.
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