Ticks have long been pests of humans and animals in North Carolina. 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.
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. 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.
The following Ticks are present in North Carolina:
- American Dog Tick (female) – Does not transmit Lyme Disease
- The Brown Dog Tick – feeds almost exclusively on Dogs
- Lone Star Tick adult female: Bites from the lonestar tick can result in an illness called STARI (Southern Tick Associated Rash Infection) which exhibits a rash similar in appearance to that seen with Lyme Disease. However, this disease is not caused by the same organism that causes Lyme Disease
- The black-legged tick, (formerly called the deer tick is the vector of the Lyme disease spirochete.
Here are tips on how you can treat these ticks:
- To treat for ticks Weeds and grass around homes and in public-use areas should be kept mowed to discourage rodent hosts of ticks from becoming established.
- Reduce exposure to ticks by removing the leaf litter
- Treatment for inside the structure should include consideration of areas where pets rest and frequent with the appropriate labeled insecticide.
- Exterior treatment should include lawn and shrubs with particular attention to areas bordering woods, under dog houses and around outbuildings.
- Pets, particularly dogs should be regularly inspected and if evidence of ticks, need to be shampooed, dipped, or sprayed with an approved acaricide product.