Ticks are parasitic arachnids that are best known for their predation on humans and domesticated animals, though they prey on almost all species that produce blood. Ticks are external parasites and can be easily spotted by the naked eye in most cases. They are shaped like flattened teardrops, with eight legs and piercing mouth-parts. They are usually dark in coloration when they haven’t been feeding, but are a variety of paler colors when engorged on blood. When engorged ticks resemble rounded teardrops instead of flat ones, they are much easier to spot or feel.
Ticks are of the order Arcahnida and are characterized by being, by and large, parasitic. Ticks are external parasites, feeding most commonly on the blood of animal hosts. Ticks can carry several diseases that are harmful to humans such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease. There are only three families of ticks, though only two of those families are commonly a threat to humans. Ticks can be found world-wide and it is hypothesized that they owe at least some of their distribution to their hosts.
Signs of Infestation
If you have been bitten by a tick, you will usually be able to spot them on your body. Ticks like the warmer, darker and thinner skinned part of the body, so it is imperative to check yourself carefully when you have been in any area that contains heavy brush, tall grass or other types of high vegetation. If the tick has not yet attached it will appear as a small, dark, moving shape against the skin. If it is already attached, it will already be engorged, which means that you can see it as a small, globular shape. The best way to remove a tick is to use a pair of tweezers and grasp the part of the tick closest to the skin. Pull upwards with firm, straight motion and then drop the tick in an alcohol solution. Then apply an antibiotic solution.
Ticks do not fly, hop, jump or drop on their hosts, instead only attaching by manual contact. Ticks practice a specific behavior known as “questing” where they climb to the top of a grass, branch or other high place near the passage of prey with their top legs extended. The fore legs of most ticks have a special sensory organ that is capable of sensing the chemicals given off by prey animals. Ticks can also sense body temperature, moisture and vibrations. Therefore ticks are most likely to make their habitation near areas that are rich in prey animals. As not all ticks prey on humans, they have a very extensive range of habitation.
Ticks eat by attaching themselves to their host, usually on an area of thin skin. They can take a while to attach while looking for the perfect place to feed. Ticks then feed by cutting into the skin and feeding from the blood of their host. Because ticks can transmit a variety of different, quite dangerous diseases, it is imperative that the removal of a feeding tick is carefully done to prevent the tick from regurgitating the blood they have already eaten.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to keep from getting a tick is to dress in long pants and shirts when traveling through ares where ticks are present. Remember to tuck your pants into boots or longer socks to prevent gaps in clothing where a tick might gain access to skin. Prevention of ticks can be accomplished by controlling the height of grasses on a property and of spraying preventive pesticides. For pets, tick prevention can be accomplished by a variety of techniques. There are tick repellant collars and topical treatments widely available and it is recommended that all pets, whether kept inside or outside, be treated for tick prevention.