Lyme 101: All About Ticks

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What are Ticks?

Ticks are tiny crawling bugs in the spider family that feed by sucking blood from animals. If the animal is carrying Lyme disease spirochetes, the tick sucks them up as it feeds and they multiply in the tick’s gut. The tick may then transfer them into the next animal it feeds on.

Where Do Ticks Live?

Ticks prefer humid environments. Adult ticks climb up grasses and bushes on the edges of trails to wait for an animal to pass by. In hot, dry weather they are less active. Immature ticks are often found in leaf litter under oak trees. Nymphs may climb up onto downed logs.

What is the Tick Life Cycle?

Ticks have three life stages: larva, nymph and adult. To see a diagram of the tick life cycle go to: TBDA. In each stage, ticks feed by sucking blood from animals. Then they drop off, enter a dormant period, and molt to become the next stage.

Most Lyme disease is transmitted by nymphal ticks, which are smaller than a poppy seed in size and easily escape detection. Their bite is painless. The human is at greatest risk in the late Spring/early Summer when the nymph ticks are most plentiful.

What do Ticks Feed On?

Adult ticks feed and mate primarily on deer. You may also find adult ticks on your dogs, horses, and other domesticated animals.

Nymphs feed primarily on smaller animals, including squirrels, mice, lizards, rabbits, robins, starlings. Migratory birds play an important role in distributing ticks throughout the country.

What Kind of Ticks are There?

American Dog Tick–Dermacentor variabilis
The American Dog Tick can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, and Tick Paralysis.

Soft Ticks–Ornithodoros

Soft ticks do not have the hard shell and are shaped like a large raisin. Soft ticks carry Tick Relapsing Fever.

Western Black Legged Tick–Ixodes Pacificus

The Western Black Legged Tick is prevalent on west coast. It transmits Babesia, Lyme disease, Bartonella and Ehrlichia.

Deer Tick–Ixodes Scapularis

The Deer Tick is prevalent on East Coast and transmits Lyme disease, Ehrlichia, Babesia, and Bartonella

Brown Dog Tick–Rhipicephalus Sanguineus

The Brown Dog tick carries Q Fever.

Rocky Mountain Wood Tick–Dermacentor Andersoni

The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick transmits Tularemia, Tick paralysis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Q Fever, and Colorado Tick Fever.

Lone Star Tick–Amblyomma Americanum

The Lone Star Tick is prevalent in the South West and can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, and Ehrlichia, Q Fever and Tick Paralysis as well as Borrelia lonestari, which causes a Lyme disease like illness

Pacific Coast Tick–Dermacentor Occidentalis

The Pacific Coast Tick is prevalent in the West and South West. It can transmit Colorado Tick Fever virus, the Rickettsia of Q Fever and Spotted fever as well as the bacterium that causes Tularemia. Known to cause tick paralysis in cattle, horses and deer. Bite wounds are commonly mistaken for wounds caused by the biting of this tick.

What Kind of Bacteria do they Carry?

One tick bite may transmit over a dozen tick-borne diseases including Lyme disease. The species of bacteria among the tick-borne pathogens are diverse. This complicates diagnosis because current antibody tests are species-specific. 15 tick-borne bacterial pathogens have been identified worldwide, including 3 species of Ehrlichia, and 4 or 5 of B. burgdorferi. Scientists have not identified all of the pathogens that ticks may carry. According to ILADS, there are 5 subspecies of Lyme, over 100 strains in the US and 300 strains worldwide.

Taken from the website of Lyme Disease Organization.

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