Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks are blood-sucking arthropods and the vectors of Lyme Disease. The major families of ticks include the Ixodidae or hard ticks, which have thick outer shells made of chitin, and Argasidae or soft ticks, which have a membraneous outer surface. Soft ticks typically live in crevices and emerge briefly to feed, while hard ticks will attach themselves to the skin of a host for long periods of time.
Ticks do not fly, jump, or fall out of trees! They are usually found in grassy areas, in brush, or in a wooded area. They wait on the tips of vegetation for a human or other animal host to pass by. As the host brushes against it, the tick makes contact, looks for a suitable location, and begins the feeding process.
Contrary to popular belief, ticks DO NOT imbed their heads in skin. Ticks are equipped with mouthparts adapted to penetrate and hold fast in the skin of its host. Additionally, they secrete a cement-like material that helps them stay attached to their host.
Ticks go through a four stage life cycle including egg, larva, nymph and adult. Both males and females in the last three stages require a blood meal. The photo at right shows, beginning on the left, the tick life stages of larva, nymph and adult on an adult thumb.
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is called Borrelia burgdorferi. Transmission is primarily by the black-legged tick. Early symptoms of Lyme disease may include head and muscle aches, sore throat, nausea, fever, stiff neck or fatigue. About 80 percent of those infected develop a rash at the bite site, which sometimes resembles a “bull’s eye.” Later symptoms may involve numbness or tingling of the limbs, joint swelling and pain, memory loss, and/or mood swings.
For more information on ticks and Lyme Disease, please click here to view the Ticks brochure.
Did you know?
It may take several months for a larva to develop to the adult stage in cold water.