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MARCH 03 2022 / PEST AND TERMITE
Ticks are a pest that are feared by many, in large part because of the sharp rise in cases of Lyme disease throughout the United States, especially along the East Coast, in the past few years.
Pests that spread dangerous diseases are always a cause for concern and should be treated with caution, which is why it’s important to know some basic information about ticks if you’re a Baltimore resident.
Despite the prevalence of Lyme disease in the Baltimore area, the fact is that there are a lot of different types of ticks and they spread many more diseases than just Lyme disease. Learning about the ticks in Baltimore and what to do when they bite you is important in protecting yourself and your family.
The largest of the four most common tick species in Maryland, American dog ticks grow to about a quarter of an inch in length. After a blood meal, they can become over half an inch in size. With flat, oval-shaped bodies when not engorged, American dog ticks are usually brown with whitish markings on them.
American dog ticks prefer outdoor areas with low vegetation where large mammals pass by. If they can’t find a host, they’re able to survive up to three years without a blood meal.
As their name suggests, their favored host is the domesticated dog. Because of this, they can often feed on a dog, then make their way to a human in the same household for their next meal.
However, they can’t survive long indoors if they’re not attached to a host.
American dog ticks are able to spread several illnesses. They are the primary transmitter of Rocky Mountain spotted fever. They are also known to spread tularemia and can cause tick paralysis.
As the main vector of Lyme disease, blacklegged ticks are probably the most well-known of the common tick species in Maryland. They are also known to transmit anaplasmosis, babeseosis, and Powassan encephalitis.
Blacklegged ticks are about an eighth of an inch when unfed and grow larger and rounder when engorged. They have reddish brown bodies and darker heads.
Like American dog ticks, they have flat, oval-shaped bodies.
Blacklegged ticks spend their time in transition areas, such as where lawns meet the treeline. They like to hide in grasses and can also be found in the nests of the animals they feed on.
They like to feed on a variety of hosts, often using mice for their first meal, which is often where they pick up the pathogens they then spread to other hosts.
Unlike the other species of ticks found in Maryland, brown dog ticks can complete their entire life cycle indoors and will happily infest indoor locations.
Their preferred host is the domesticated dog, but they will feed on humans if necessary. They are known to transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever to humans and have a couple of canine-specific diseases they can spread to dogs.
About an eighth of an inch when unengorged and up to half an inch when engorged, brown dog ticks are similar in size to blacklegged ticks. They have similar coloring as well, although they turn a whitish gray color after a meal.
Although they can be found both outdoors and indoors, they prefer dry, warm locations, which is why they thrive inside. Once they get inside, typically by climbing onto a dog, they will infest a home by laying eggs in cracks and crevices around the house.
Lone star ticks get their name from the silvery dot found on the backs of the females. The rest of their body is reddish-brown but becomes gray when engorged. Lone star ticks are about a sixth of an inch long in size and grow to about half an inch long when engorged.
Typically found in shaded areas with low vegetation, lone star ticks will wait for a host in these locations. They use a variety of hosts, from small birds to large mammals.
Once inside, they cannot survive for long without a host due to the low humidity typically found in indoor locations.
Lone star ticks are known to transmit several diseases. These include Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), tularemia, Heartland virus, and Bourbon virus.
Although there are some differences between the various species of ticks, they have many things in common. All ticks are arachnids, which are classified as arthropods with two-part bodies, eight jointed legs, and no antennae.
Ticks go through four stages in their life cycle. They begin as eggs, hatch into larvae (at which stage they only have six legs), grow into nymphs, and finally reach adulthood.
To pass from one stage to the next, they must have a blood meal.
Ticks typically find a host from which to get their blood meal by climbing onto a blade of grass, a leaf, or other debris in an area where there is typically a lot of animal foot traffic, raising their front set of legs, and waiting for something (or someone) to walk by so they can grab on and climb aboard.
Different types of ticks prefer different types of hosts. Some, like the brown dog tick, prefer to have the same kind of host through all life stages.
Others, like the blacklegged tick, like to use different types of hosts through the stages, such as mice, deer, and humans. They can also feed on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and a variety of mammals.
Once on their host, ticks will either immediately attach themselves to feed or will wander around a bit until they find a suitable location. Many ticks prefer warm, moist areas where they may go unnoticed, such as inside armpits, behind ears, or in the hairline.
Once they find a suitable location, they’ll make a cut in the skin and insert a feeding tube that sometimes has small barbs to help it stay attached.
Some ticks will also secrete a substance that cements them to the host to help them stay attached. Some also secrete saliva with anesthetic properties so that the host doesn’t feel the tick’s presence.
It can take several days for a tick to complete its meal. It is during this process that diseases are transferred, either from host to tick or from tick to host.
Ticks are not born with disease-causing pathogens. Instead, they pick up these pathogens when feeding on an infected host.
During a subsequent blood meal on a new host, the now-infected tick not only ingests blood, but may also transmit small amounts of pathogen-carrying saliva into the host. In this way a person can become infected with a tick-borne disease.
Although many ticks carry and spread diseases, not all are infected with disease-causing pathogens. That’s good news because it means that not every tick bite will result in an illness.
Furthermore, although it’s not the case for every type of transmission, most tick-borne diseases require the tick to be attached to the host for at least 24 hours before the disease can be transferred to the host.
Most tick-borne illnesses start out with similar flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, achy muscles, and a headache. This can make tick-borne diseases hard to diagnose because they mimic other common illnesses.
It is recommended that you seek medical attention if you have any of these symptoms and have been in any location where you may have encountered a tick.
Here are some of the most common tick-borne diseases as well as a brief description of their effects:
In addition to flu-like symptoms, many people also get a bull’s eye rash when they get Lyme disease. However, this rash is not guaranteed, and you can get Lyme disease without it.
If caught in its early stages, Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, it can lead to chronic problems for the joints, nervous system, and heart.
Rocky Mountain spotted fever causes flu-like symptoms as well as a rash. Early treatment with antibiotics can keep it from progressing. Left untreated, Rocky Mountain spotted fever can lead to death or serious long term health problems, including amputations, hearing loss, and mental disabilities.
Flu-like symptoms are the early symptoms of anaplasmosis. In rare cases, and if left untreated, anaplasmosis can advance to more severe symptoms such as respiratory failure or even death.
Babesiosis causes no symptoms in many people. For those who do have symptoms, they are usually common flu-like symptoms. It can also cause anemia.
Tularemia is different from other tick-borne illnesses in its main symptoms. Although it always includes a fever, the kind spread by ticks usually involves a skin ulcer and swollen glands.
If left untreated, it can progress into causing respiratory problems.
Tick paralysis is different from other tick-borne illnesses because it can only occur when the tick is present. Muscle weakness and leg numbness are the early symptoms.
Once the tick drops off its host, the symptoms will slowly diminish. However, symptoms can become severe or even lead to death if not treated quickly.
Keeping ticks off of your Baltimore property involves making it as uninhabitable as possible for the ticks themselves, as well as making it unattractive to the wildlife that might bring ticks onto your property.
The following tips can help:
Keep your grass trimmed short.
Cut back vegetation, especially along transition areas, such as where your lawn meets the trees or fields beyond.
Eliminate as many shaded areas as you can around your property.
Remove debris from the lawn such as leaf litter and branches.
Remove wood piles or store them in a closed shed.
Eliminate potential wildlife food sources around your property, like bird seed and pet food.
Eliminate areas where water pools around your property, such as low spots on your lawn and clogged gutters.
Keep outdoor garbage bins tightly covered to dissuade animals looking for a meal.
Despite your best efforts, there’s no 100% effective way to keep all ticks or wildlife off your property.
The best way to reduce the tick populations on your Baltimore property is to contact the professionals at American Pest. We offer tick control treatments that target the areas where ticks are most likely to harbor on your property.
We also offer services to combat any wildlife problems your property may be experiencing. By eliminating the rodents on your property, for example, we can help lessen the chance of ticks being brought into your yard.
For effective tick control or other pest control services, contact American Pest today. We have the experience and knowledge to protect your family from harmful pests.