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Types of Ticks

Posted at July 1, 2020 » By : Dan Caouette » Categories : Pest Pro News » Comments Off on Types of Ticks

types of ticks

Different Types of Ticks & How to Manage an Infestation

Ticks are some of the worst pests you can encounter. Their small size makes them hard to find, and their bites can carry deadly diseases. Therefore, they can cause major problems if they make their way into your home or workplace.

For this reason, it’s incredibly important to keep ticks out of your residence. However, different types of ticks carry different threats, so it can be helpful to know which ones you’re dealing with.

What Are Ticks?

Ticks are minuscule arachnids. They’re usually only a few millimeters in length, though their size can vary dramatically as they feed. Unlike other arachnids, such as spiders, which typically feed off insects, ticks attach themselves to much larger hosts and act as parasites. These hosts are generally mammals, and often include humans.

Ticks wait in areas like tall grass, perched on the edges of plants until a suitable host passes by and brushes against it. Then they grasp onto the host and crawl over its skin until they find a good place to feed. When they find one, they bury their heads beneath the skin, using their mouths to consume blood. If left there long enough, they can drink enough blood to make them swell up to several times their original size.

Hosts don’t typically feel ticks attach to them, so it can be easy for them to go unnoticed.

keeping ticks out of home

Why Is It Important to Keep Ticks out of Your Home?

By themselves, tick bites don’t often cause any significant harm to a host. The amount of blood they can consume is so small that it makes virtually no difference. The reason ticks are dangerous isn’t because of what they take away from the host, but rather what they might inject.

A tick can inadvertently infect you with pathogens picked up from the blood of past hosts. For this reason, ticks can carry a variety of different diseases. Here are some of the most common illnesses transmitted by ticks:

  • Lyme disease: A bacterium that can cause symptoms like a rash, arthritis, heart problems and neurological issues.
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: A bacterium that can cause a rash, extreme headaches and fatigue.
  • Ehrlichiosis: A bacterium that can cause symptoms like a rash, fever, extreme headaches, nausea, diarrhea and mild delirium.
  • Tularemia: A bacterium that can cause ulcers and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Anaplasmosis: A bacterium that can cause fever, extreme headaches and nausea.
  • Babesiosis: A parasite that can cause fever, fatigue, headaches and nausea.
  • Powassan disease: A virus that can cause fever, fatigue, mild delirium, nausea and neurological issues.

It’s important to note that not every tick will transmit these diseases. Different ticks transmit different types of diseases. However, even if you’re bitten by a species of tick known to carry a particular disease, the tick in question may not be carrying it. Plus, even if the tick that bites you is carrying a disease, you may be able to avoid contracting it if you remove the tick in time. For example, you can greatly reduce your chances of contracting Lyme disease from a tick if you remove it within 48 hours.

What Types of Ticks Live in Massachusetts?

To know how to handle any given tick situation, it can be helpful for you to be familiar with the different kinds of ticks in your area and the risks they pose. There are many types of ticks in Massachusetts, and each of them comes with their own distinct features and hazards. Knowing these can help you respond appropriately to each one, or at least be aware of the risk that comes with being bitten by it.

types of ticks found in massachusetts

1. Deer Ticks

Deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, appear throughout the entire eastern half of the United States. You will find many deer ticks in Massachusetts and their size can vary significantly, depending on their age and how much blood they have consumed. Of the types discussed here, deer ticks are generally the smallest.

Females have a distinct head and moderately long legs, all of which are dark brown. Their abdomen usually appears as an orange oval, with a smaller, dark brown oval located in the upper half of it. Males have a similar structure, but tend to be a bit smaller. They also lack the orange section of the abdomen that females have, and are entirely dark brown.

The most common diseases for deer ticks to transmit are Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis, tularemia and Powassan disease. They can also release a neurotoxin that causes tick paralysis, where the host experiences tingling and weakness throughout their body.

Deer ticks typically live for around two years, surviving through the winter. Their preferred hosts are rodents and deer, though they will happily latch onto humans, as well.

about dog ticks

2. Dog Ticks

Dog ticks can be divided into two species — American dog ticks and brown dog ticks. American dog ticks can be found across the eastern half of the United States and on the west coast, while brown dog ticks populate the entire country. Both species of dog ticks are the largest of the common tick species in Massachusetts.

Dog ticks are usually a medium-to-dark brown color, though female American dog ticks often have an off-white patch on their upper abdomen. Their heads are less distinct than those of deer ticks, but they tend to have longer legs, especially brown dog ticks.

Diseases commonly transmitted by dog ticks include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Like deer ticks, they can cause tick paralysis with their neurotoxins. Also, like deer ticks, they can survive for around two years without feeding. Their preferred hosts tend to be medium-sized furry animals such as possums, raccoons and dogs. They’ll also target humans when given the chance.

3. Lone Star Ticks

Lone star ticks appear mainly across the eastern half of the United States, though they don’t quite make it all the way to the northern border. They’re particularly prominent in Massachusetts.

Like deer ticks, lone star ticks have a very distinct head, though their legs tend to be a bit shorter than those of the other two types. They’re usually a medium brown color. On their abdomens, males typically bear some black markings, while females have a single white patch in the middle, from which the species gets its name.

The most common diseases for lone star ticks to carry are ehrlichiosis and tularemia, though they’ve been known to transmit others as well. Lone star ticks can usually live for up to three years. Their preferred hosts are deer and turkeys, though — like the others — they’ll attach to humans as well.

4. Winter Ticks

Winter ticks are common in various habitats across North America and are especially abundant in areas of Massachusetts where large hoofed animals are present. These ticks will feed on one individual during all three life stages and are more common in the fall and winter.

Adult female winter ticks are typically reddish-brown and have a creamy white shield below their heads on their backs. An adult male winter tick has a dark brown coloring and its back has a crosshatch pattern.

While these parasites rarely bite humans, they sometimes attach to dogs, beavers and coyotes. Winter ticks do not spread diseases — however, a heavy infestation can cause severe complications for their host.

5. Groundhog Tick

Groundhog ticks are one of the more common types of ticks in New England and mainly live in or around their host’s dens and nests. Their primary food sources are groundhogs and small mammals like raccoons, foxes and, in rare cases, birds such as robins.

Both adult male and female groundhog ticks are oval-shaped. An adult male has a dark reddish-brown coloring, while an adult female has a light tan color. The adult female also has an additional dark brown shield by the head.

Groundhog ticks are most active in the summer and peak in July. Their life cycle largely depends on the population of their host, and most of these ticks can survive a year or more without eating. While groundhog ticks rarely bite humans, they can transmit the Powassan virus, which can cause a deadly infection in the brain.

6. Asian Longhorned Tick

The Asian longhorned tick is native to Asia but has become an invasive species in Massachusetts and across Eastern North America in recent years. One can commonly find the Asian longhorned tick on mammals, birds, humans and many farm animals ranging from cattle to chickens.

Both adult male and female Asian longhorned ticks have a reddish-brown coloring. The males have a yellow edge around their bodies and the females have dark brown markings. Unlike other tick populations, Asian longhorned ticks use asexual production, resulting in a higher female population.

These ticks are more active in warmer months, and the best way to protect yourself and your pets or livestock is to check yourself and your animals after spending time outside. If you see a tick on yourself or your animal, remove it immediately, as these ticks can transmit diseases such as Lyme disease.

Get Tick Removal Service Today

Massachusetts is home to many different species of ticks, and each of them can carry harmful diseases. If you’re experiencing repeated problems with ticks at your home or business, it may be time to call in a pest control service.

Thankfully, Pest Pros has your back. We offer extermination services across the Cape Cod area, and we’ll even provide a free inspection before getting to work on eliminating the ticks at your residence. Get in touch with us today to start the process of ending your tick troubles!

About Dan Caouette

While looking for a business opportunity, I moved to the Cape and became involved in the pest control industry.  In 2000, I opened Pest Pros and it's been growing ever since. After a few years, working to control pests, it became clear to me that the conditions that bred termites (damp, musty basements, rotted wood) are also prime conditions for mold growth.  As a pest controller, I was uniquely qualified to fight mold at the same time.  I started Mold Care Pros, a division of Pest Pros, to specialize in Mold Remediation and Prevention. I have been heavily involved in Business Network International (BNI) where I have served as both a president and as a director of several chapters.  I conduct seminars on pest control and regularly attend SCORE business classes and other business seminars.  I also devote time to a program called "Mended Hearts," where I speak to people about heart disease.

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