Ticks & Disease: What Every Maryland Property Owner Ought To Know
Ticks have become an increasingly large problem all across the country in recent years. Rarely even thought about in the ‘80s and ‘90s, they are now a pest that is feared during the warmer months of each year because of the dangerous diseases they spread.
While much is still unknown about many of the illnesses ticks carry and transmit, we know enough to be mindful of their presence and to take action to reduce their numbers on Maryland properties.
The following information will help you understand the ticks of Maryland, the diseases they spread, and how best to keep them off of your Maryland property.
What Types Of Ticks Are Common In Maryland?
There are nearly 900 species of ticks in the world, many of which are harmless to humans. Unfortunately, the four species that are most common in Maryland are all capable of spreading diseases.
American Dog Ticks
American dog ticks get their name because they are only found in North America and their preferred host is the domesticated dog. Brown with whitish-gray markings, American dog ticks are slightly smaller than an eighth of an inch but can grow to over half an inch when fully engorged.
American dog ticks prefer to spend their time in grassy areas with some vegetation. They choose areas where larger mammals are likely to pass by. Because they are attracted to the scent of animals, they can often be found in the vegetation along the edges of trails and roads where animals might walk.
Although they need blood meals to survive, adult American dog ticks can live for up to three years without a meal and larval American dog ticks can survive for about a year and a half without a meal. After an adult female has a meal, she’ll drop off her host and lay up to 6,500 eggs before dying.
Brown Dog Ticks
Brown dog ticks get their name from their color and their preferred host. They are reddish-brown and about the same size as the American dog tick.
Brown dog ticks are one of the few species of ticks that do well in indoor locations. Most ticks require higher levels of humidity to survive, but brown dog ticks can survive in the low humidity of your home. This makes them a problem for homeowners because once inside, they can infest your home.
Although unlikely to bite humans, brown dog ticks will bite humans in the absence of a canine host. After a meal, female adults will lay up to 3,000 eggs in cracks and crevices around your house. Once hatched, the larvae will move up to find a host. Both the adults and larvae can survive up to eight months without a meal.
Lone Star Ticks
Lone star ticks are so named because of the single silvery-white spot on the backs of female ticks. They are about the same size as the American dog tick and the brown dog tick.
Because they need both small and large mammals to complete all stages of development, lone star ticks are found in areas where both are present. They require shaded areas with relatively high humidity and are often found in the transitional zone between wooded areas and lawns or fields.
Lone star ticks usually climb to the tips of low vegetation, such as blades of grass, to wait for hosts to walk by, but adults can also sense when a host is nearby and crawl to them. After a meal, a female adult can lay up to 3,000 eggs. They can survive over a year without a meal.
Black Legged Ticks (Also Known As Deer Ticks)
Black legged ticks get their name from their dark legs. However, they are more commonly known as deer ticks because white-tailed deer are their preferred host. Reaching about 1/8 inch, they are smaller than the American dog tick. Deer ticks are an orange-brown color with a darker brown area near their head.
Like most ticks, deer ticks prefer to spend their time in areas with low vegetation and the possibility of a host walking by. They are often found in the transitional areas between the woods and yards or fields.
Deer ticks can use both small and large hosts at all stages of development. When an adult female has a meal, she’ll drop off her host and lay up to 3000 eggs. Deer ticks can typically survive for about a year without a meal. However, if they get inside your home, they can rarely survive for more than a few days because of the lack of moisture.
What Types Of Illnesses Do Ticks Spread?
When it comes to ticks, you rarely have to worry about having an infestation inside your house. Only brown dog ticks can go through their entire life cycle in an indoor setting. However, just because you won’t find thousands inside doesn’t mean there’s nothing to worry about. Just one tick getting onto your body then biting you can cause serious illness. Different species of ticks can cause a variety of dangerous diseases.
Perhaps the most well-known of all tick-borne illnesses, and certainly the one that is the biggest cause for concern here in the Eastern US, Lyme disease is a growing problem in Maryland. Lyme disease is transmitted through deer ticks.
Although most people think the first sign of Lyme disease is the tell-tale bull’s eye rash, in reality, there are vastly conflicting reports that put the percentage of people who get the rash anywhere from 25-80%.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, joint aches, and more. If left untreated, Lyme disease can become a chronic condition that causes neurological problems, or in rare instances, even death.
When caught early, Lyme disease can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a fairly rare bacterial disease spread by American dog ticks and brown dog ticks.
Early symptoms include fever, headaches, and muscle aches. A rash often accompanies or follows these symptoms.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever responds well to antibiotics. However, if not treated promptly, it can lead to damaged blood vessels, organs, and tissue, as well as death.
Tularemia is a bacterial disease that can be contracted in several ways, including through the bite of the Lone Star tick or the American dog tick. The most common sign of tularemia spread by a tick is a skin ulcer at the site of the tick bite, along with swollen lymph glands.
Tularemia is rare, so it can be difficult to diagnose. However, once it is diagnosed, a course of antibiotics usually leads to full recovery.
Spread by the American dog tick, tick paralysis occurs during exposure to a neurotoxin during a tick bite. Symptoms include paralysis and tingling that start in the legs and work their way up the body.
Once the tick is removed, symptoms resolve themselves within hours. However, if not removed promptly, symptoms can spread to the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. This can lead to death.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
Southern tick-associated rash illness, called STARI for short, is spread by the Lone Star tick but is often mistaken for Lyme disease. Symptoms are similar, including the rash, fever, headaches, and muscle aches.
There is no test for STARI, and it is not known if antibiotics are effective against it. Nevertheless, they are often prescribed because STARI is often mistaken for Lyme disease.
Spread by the deer tick, anaplasmosis is a bacterial disease. Fever, chills, headaches, and muscle aches are common symptoms associated with anaplasmosis.
Although testing for anaplasmosis can take several weeks to get results, doctors often prescribe antibiotics based on symptoms before a positive test result.
Babesiosis is caused by microscopic parasites that infect your red blood cells after being bitten by a deer tick. Most people who are infected have no symptoms. Others have flu-like symptoms. In some instances, babesiosis can cause severe, life-threatening symptoms.
After diagnosis, treatment is available and requires a combination of antibiotics and anti-parasitic drugs.
How Can You Reduce Tick Populations In Your Yard?
Although tick infestations are not usually a cause for concern inside your house, they are a serious problem outside your house. The chances of ending up with a tick bite and a tick-borne illness are much higher if you have a lot of ticks living on or around your Maryland property. Luckily, there are things you can do to make your yard less likely to attract ticks.
First, understand where ticks are most likely to be found. Transitional areas are a favorite spot for ticks, as well as areas of tall grass and underbrush. To keep tick populations down, eliminate these areas. This can be done by:
Keeping your grass trimmed short.
Removing leaf litter.
Removing other yard debris.
Placing a barrier, such as a fence or rocky area, between your lawn and transitional areas.
Second, understand that ticks often enter your property by riding in on other animals. Making your lawn less attractive to wildlife will help lessen the tick populations on your lawn. You can do this by:
Removing all outdoor food sources, such as pet food and birdseed.
Eliminating outdoor water sources, such as birdbaths and clogged gutters.
Making sure outdoor garbage bins have tightly fitting lids.
Keeping shrubbery and bushes around the perimeter of your house trimmed back.
Removing unnecessary hiding spots, such as rock walls and woodpiles.
Third, understand that even by taking preventative steps, you’re unlikely to fully eliminate ticks from your property. For the best protection, you need the professional services of American Pest.
At American Pest, our technicians are fully trained in the life cycles and habits of ticks. We use this information to develop tick control plans that target ticks at the most opportune times of year to eliminate them in all stages of development.
With professional tick control, you can relax, knowing that your yard is a safe place to spend time without worrying about the many dangerous illnesses spread by ticks. If you need tick control, contact us today.
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