Wood ticks are a type of arachnid that feed on the blood of both people and animals. They need to attach themselves for at least four hours in order to extract enough blood from their host. In this blog post, we will explore how they survive off your pet's blood and what you can do about it.
In addition, we'll discuss how they can transmit Lyme disease which is a serious concern in our area because there is an increase in the number of infected ticks around here lately.
Are these tiny bugs really worth all the fuss? Read this blog post to find out!
Wood Tick - Dermacentor variabilis:
What are They?
The term "tick" refers to over 800 species in the United States. Tick is also the common name for members of a family called Ixodidae or hard-bodied ticks. These types of ticks have three life-cycle stages - larvae, nymphs and adults. The larvae are very small (less than 0.1 inch) while the nymphs are bigger with less white colouring than adults. Adults are about 1/5 inch long with dark brown markings on their backs that resemble a deer tick if you squint your eyes really hard!
Hard-bodied ticks usually feed on wildlife but they will readily attach themselves to humans when given the opportunity. It's likely that you won't even feel their bite.
Preferred habitat includes wooded areas with high grass, brush and leaf litter which make them hard to spot. It should be noted that the deer tick can roam up to 300 feet from where it has dropped off its host or been picked up by a competent one! Some people have reported seeing these ticks crawling across their lawn while they're going for a jog.
Where do They Live?
Let's take a closer look at this particular species of tick. The wood tick is found throughout much of North America and it is so named because it hunts or feeds on wild animals such as squirrels, rabbits and raccoons in order to survive. Unlike other types of ticks, they can also feed on humans and pets. They are not known to transmit Lyme disease in Canada but do in the United States especially around states such as New Jersey and Maryland.
A Closer Look at Them:
The wood tick has three distinct life cycle stages which include egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph and adult. The colour of adults varies depending on what stage of feeding it is currently in; white when unfed (dormant) or bloated after a large meal. The latter will appear greyish brown or tan with dark spots along its back. The underside (abdomen) is usually while the upper side (thorax) is more tan. The males are known to have a white spot near the centre of the back while the females is closer to its mid-section. There can be further variation in colour for adults depending on what stage of the life cycle they're in.
Well-fed females may be ready to drop off their host and lay eggs somewhere else - probably where you don't want them! Nymphs will also feed on small rodents, rabbits, raccoons and squirrels which makes them a danger around homes with pets and children who play in wooded areas or tall grasses.
Wood Ticks - Dermacentor variabilis Wood ticks undergo several moults when getting from one life cycle stage to another before becoming adults about 8-11 months later. The female lays eggs in the fall and will overwinter at the base of trees, tall grasses, bushes and even within leaf litter. These are known to hatch in springtime with larvae being more active around early May or June during the time when adult ticks are most likely to bite people who have been playing outside all day! It can take up to three years for them to mature into adults.
How do They Feed?
Hard-bodied ticks attach themselves to hosts by inserting their mouthparts into the skin. This process is painless because these types of ticks do not have saliva that contains anaesthetics or anti-inflammatory agents that would make it more comfortable for the host. They'll also crawl upwards until they find a suitable location before inserting their mouthparts which is why you could end up with ticks on your scalp or face if you are adventurous enough to put your head into tall grasses!
Once in place, it takes between 6-12 hours for an unfed wood tick to swell up to four times its original size. They will feed using two sets of mouthparts - one set has five points while the other is single-pointed. Blood is ingested by means of what looks like drinking straws built into both sets of "mouthparts" after partially embedding themselves in the skin.
When fully engorged, hard-bodied ticks can not be easily pulled out without leaving part of their mouthparts - this danger is greatest if you have a pet that spends time in wooded areas or tall grasses. If left alone, it can take anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks for the tick to completely engorge itself and drop off its host.
During feeding, wood ticks will often hang out near where their canine hosts sleep; your dog's movements may cause the tick to fall onto the bedding, carpet or furniture. You might be able to spot them crawling or hanging around on carpets and upholstery even after they've dropped off their host since they're still full of blood!
How Bad are Their Bites?
The bite site swells and becomes red after a day which is when someone who's never experienced a wood tick bite before might be inclined to scratch it. This can produce an infection if the mouthparts are not removed which is what happened with my son who ended up having three small wounds on his scalp that were red, raw and difficult to heal. A doctor's visit was necessary!
A close-up of a wood tick's embedded mouthparts after ingesting blood - they work like straws! The bites become less painful as time goes on but scratching them still produces lesions that take weeks to heal. Some people can experience an allergic reaction if bitten by more than one wood tick which leads to some nasty skin rashes where the bites appear at different times. Stiffness of joints, muscle aches and flu-like symptoms can also occur after the removal of attached ticks.
How Can You Prevent Getting Bitten?
The best method to prevent getting bitten by wood ticks is to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants along with a hat and closed-toe shoes when enjoying the outdoors during the warmer months of the year. Insect repellent containing DEET has been known to be an effective deterrent against these pests although you'll need to reapply it every 8 hours or so depending on how much exposure your skin gets from the sun, water, sweat etc. If you're in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent, consider adding permethrin spray which will repel but not kill hard-bodied insects while wearing clothes that have already been pre-treated with this insecticide.
How Can You Remove Attached Ticks?
Wood ticks can be removed by grasping them with fine-tipped tweezers as close to the skin's surface as possible and pulling straight out gently but firmly; do not twist or jerk sideways while removing them since this could cause their mouthparts to break off which will lead to infection in the wound site. When using tweezers, grasp ticks by their head (not back) if you want to reduce the chances of leaving some of its mouthpieces behind! Treat wounds with antibiotic ointment and cover them up with an adhesive bandage if necessary. It might also help to apply some antibacterial liquid soap over affected areas before attempting tick removal especially since these types of parasites are likely to inject some of their salivae into the skin during feeding.
After ticks have been removed, place them in a sealed container or plastic bag for identification purposes since not all these parasites carry Lyme disease. Wood ticks found clinging to pets are usually engorged with blood which means they can be larger than those that are found on humans. Since it's difficult to tell whether the tick you're looking at is "full" or not, it might be best to remove these pests by grasping them close to your pet's skin rather than near their head - just remember that wood ticks embedded near where dogs sleep are more likely to drop onto bedding and upholstery!
What Can You Do If You Get Bitten
For people who have never been bitten by a wood tick, it can be easy to forget that these bugs are still clinging on. If you've been in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent and notice a tiny red bump on your skin after walking through tall grass or even sitting down for dinner in an outdoor restaurant, check your body carefully when undressing for bed before going to sleep because ticks can remain hidden from view until they attach themselves.
I know its hard to avoid the outdoors during summer since there's so much fun stuff to do but it pays off if you remember that wood ticks usually get attached behind the ears, on the belly, groin and scalp so always inspect yourself thoroughly when coming back inside! I've noticed mine crawling up arms while watching TV so take your time and look your best.
It's a good idea to shower as soon as you get back inside and inspect yourself carefully and be sure to conduct a full-body check before going to bed especially if you've been walking through tall grass or working in garden beds where wood ticks might be hiding. In case one of these parasites is found, wash the area with soap and hot water then dry thoroughly before applying antiseptic cream. If you have a wood tick embedded on your body somewhere that's hard to see, consider using a fine-tipped black marker to mark the spot so it's easier to find after drying off showering - try not to scratch or use anything sharp near these spots since they can lead to infection! A day or two after removing it, check to see if the area around the bite has become swollen and visit a doctor if necessary.
Of course, it's impossible to avoid exposure totally but you can reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease from wood ticks by using insect repellant with at least 35% DEET whenever you have to walk through heavily-brush areas for extended periods of time. If that doesn't work, consider applying permethrin spray onto clothing since this chemical repels as well as kills hard-bodied insects which could include wood ticks - one application should be good for several washes so it's always going to be handy when visiting places where Lyme disease is prevalent.
Lifecycle of the Wood Tick
If you're wondering how often these parasites lay eggs, it's usually every other day during the summer months and a single female wood tick can produce between 4000-6000 eggs depending on her size. Females drop off their eggs in batches onto the ground before laying more engorged with blood while males prefer to stay alive for mating purposes after biting a host.
Most cases of Lyme disease are caused by bites from adult wood ticks that attach themselves to animals or humans through their bottom end since larvae and nymphal stages do not carry this dangerous bacteria but they might still spread anaplasmosis which is also found in New Jersey. In fact, most people who get Lyme disease do so from nymphs that are only about 2mm long - adult wood ticks are about the size of a small grape often with reddish bodies.
Adult wood ticks can be found in tall grass while nymphs find cover in low brush and bushes during summer months while larvae prefer to stay underneath leaf litter. The best way to avoid being bitten by these parasites is to spend as little time as possible in areas where tick populations are known to be high - if you can't get away from it all, wear long pants, closed-toe shoes, tuck pant legs into socks and spray insect repellant containing at least 35% DEET onto clothing then reapply after 5 hours or right before getting into bed.
What to Do if Your Pet Has a Wood Tick?
- If you find a wood tick on your pet, remove it with tweezers or by using petroleum jelly to suffocate the insect
- Clean the area around where the wood tick was found with soap and water
- If there is any skin irritation after removing the wood tick, cover it with an antibiotic ointment
- Contact your veterinarian if you have any questions about what to do next
- Wash your hands thoroughly after handling ticks or cleaning up their messes!
- Make sure that all of your pets are wearing flea collars year-round, even in winter months when ticks are not as prevalent outside
It's also possible for your pet to get infested with wood ticks especially if you view them as part of the family - in this case, keep an eye out for signs of Lyme disease and always check their fur after they come back from walking or playing outdoors. If one is found, remove it right away by grasping its mouthparts with fine-tipped tweezers and pulling straight up. Once removed, use antiseptic cream and cover the wound with a bandage then call a vet if necessary.
Ticks prefer animals over humans when deciding where to attach themselves since we don't give off body heat like most animals do which makes us far less appetizing for these parasites. Always inspect yourself carefully before going to sleep and shower as soon as you get back indoors to remove ticks before they attach themselves.
It is important to be aware of the risks that ticks pose not only to your pets but also to yourself. Ticks are able to carry many diseases that can affect humans and animals alike, so it's imperative you take the steps necessary to protect both people and their furry friends from getting bitten by these pests. Be sure to check out our blog for more information on how ticks spread disease including Lyme Disease!
Read more: Why Do Dogs Roll in the Grass