“Tick” Tock Goes the Countdown to Spring Clock

Spring is coming, and along with it, the appearance of ticks.

Ticks, commonly thought of as insects, are actually arachnids like spiders, scorpions and mites. Unlike insects, all members of this group have 4 pairs of legs as adults, and haven’t any antennae.

There are two groups of ticks, which are sometimes simply called “hard ticks” and “soft ticks”.  Unfed hard ticks are shaped like a flat seed and have a hard shield just behind their mouthparts. Soft ticks do not have this hard shield and are shaped more like a large raisin. Some species of soft ticks do feed on humans but are more commonly found on birds and small mammals.

Ticks can be active in warmer months and even on winter days once the temperatures are about 45 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Ticks wait patiently for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs. Ticks cannot fly or jump; they simply crawl and climb onto a host.

There are two ticks that are more commonly found in Wisconsin, the American dog tick and the Blacklegged tick. The Lone Star tick is also becoming more prevalent in Wisconsin.

One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog tick, also known sometimes as the Wood tick. The adult American dog tick will feed on humans and medium to large mammals such as dogs and raccoons. Unfed males and females appear reddish-brown and about 3/16-inch long. Females have a large silver-colored spot behind the head and will become ½-inch long after feeding or around the size of a small grape. Males, which are sometimes mistaken for other species of ticks because they look so different from the female, have fine silver lines on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. In Wisconsin, the adults are most active in April, May and June. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.

The Blacklegged tick, otherwise known as the Deer tick is also active in Wisconsin. This tick is the vector for anaplasmosis, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Lyme disease, and Powassan virus infection. Found often along wooded areas and trails, all three active stages of these reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long ticks will feed on a variety of hosts, including humans.

The Lone Star tick is just starting to make its home in Wisconsin, especially in the southern part of the state. These ticks are more rounded in shape; the adult female is reddish-brown in color and can be easily distinguished from other ticks by the presence of a distinctive white spot or “star” on its back. Males tend to be dark brown in color, sometimes with patches of red, sometimes a whitish pattern may be visible along the outer margins of the lower body Females are generally larger than males and average around 1/6 to 1/4 inch. The lone star tick will often actively pursue a meal and it does not tend to be picky about what species of animal it gets a blood meal from. Lone star tick bites can transmit bacteria that cause conditions such as human monocytic ehrlichiosis. Some cases of an allergy to red meat have been linked from the tick’s bite.

Tips for Preventing Tick Bites and Disease

  • Avoid known tick- infested areas
  • Wear protective and lighter-colored clothing such as long-sleeved shirts, long trousers, boots or sturdy shoes. (Ticks are easier to detect on light-colored clothing.)
  • Tuck trouser cuffs in socks. Tape the area where pants and socks meet so ticks cannot crawl under clothing.
  • Walk in the center of trails as to not disturb grasses and weeds.
  • Check children and other family members (including yourself and pets) every two to three hours for ticks. Most ticks seldom attach quickly and rarely transmit disease organisms until they have been attached four or more hours.

If You Find a Tick:

  • Remove ticks from clothing with masking tape or cellophane tape. Wrap the tape around the hand by leaving the sticky side out and attaching the two ends. Ticks will stick to the tape which can then be folded over and placed in the trash.
  • Do not use bare hands to remove the tick because tick secretions may carry disease.
  • The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and gently, but firmly, pull it straight out. Try not to twist or jerk while removing the tick.
  • Safely dispose of ticks by placing them in a container of soapy water or alcohol, or sticking them to tape and placing them in the trash. You may also dispose of ticks by flushing them down the toilet.
  • Keep the tick in a small vial of alcohol if you need it identified. (We can help identify!)
  • Wash the bite area well. Contact a physician if you have an unexplained illness with fever.

To access our rodent and insect identification page to identify a tick, visit: http://www.safewaypest.net/stingers.html

Safeway Pest Management’s pest specialists are licensed, trained and knowledgeable about issues with ticks. Call us now for a free quote at 262-679-4422 or 800-956-0800 or visit our website at http://www.safewaypest.net.


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Filed under Pest Prevention, Stinging Insects, Ticks

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