Ticks 101

Ticks are arachnids that are external parasites on mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. There are several species of hard ticks and soft ticks, but only a few are known to bite and transmit diseases to humans. Tick bites are usually not felt by the host. However, they do transmit a variety of nasty diseases, including Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, Bourbon virus, typhus, tick paralysis, and others.

Ticks mostly reside in wooded or non-landscaped areas. One species, the brown dog tick, is capable of infesting homes when pets bring them indoors. Ticks are extremely hardy and resilient. They can survive for long periods of time without food and withstand extremely cold and hot temperatures.

Life Cycle of Tick Trouble-Makers

All ticks go through a four-stage life cycle: egg, larva, nymph, and adult.  Some tick species complete all life stages while feeding on only one host, while others will complete their life stages feeding on multiple hosts. Upon hatching from the egg, larval ticks (sometimes referred to as seed ticks) are very tiny and have six legs. Adult ticks range in size and color and have eight legs. All tick stages feed exclusively on blood from their hosts.

Top Tick Prevention Tips

Ticks are definitely not a pest that you want to mess around with, so it’s important to know how to avoid them and how to effectively deal with them if you see one in your home or on a pet.

  1. Make sure your cats and dogs that frequent wooded areas are on a regular tick preventative medication protocol as prescribed by a veterinarian.
  2. When pets do visit wooded or natural areas, immediately check them for the presence of ticks.
  3. When removing a tick, be careful not to squeeze its body or yank it out. It is best to use tweezers to slowly work the tick’s mouthparts from the skin.  
  4. Make sure your yard is well maintained, with bushes and trees trimmed back and long grass cut regularly. 

If you think you are dealing with a tick infestation, don’t panic. Terminix can treat it! Our tick treatments, similar to mosquito treatments, are focused on the yard. A general insecticide is applied to all low-lying bushes, wooded, and high-grass areas of the yard. Then, a Terminix expert will apply a granular insecticide to areas where ticks would most likely be residing. If your home is infested with brown dog ticks, this will  require a series of specialized treatments.

A Quest for Food

When a tick is searching for a host, it will crawl up to the top of a blade of grass or weed and stretch out its front legs. This behavior is called “questing.” It will wait until an animal brushes by, then it will grab onto it by inserting its mouthparts. The tick’s mouthparts contain tiny backwards facing hooks, which it will insert into the host so it can feed for several hours or days. The body of a tick can expand and increase their weight 200 to 600 times as they intake blood. Once feeding is complete, they dislodge their mouthparts and fall off the host. Yuck!