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Blacklegged Ticks: Lifecycle, Transmitters of Disease and Ways to Control

December 5, 2018
blacklegged tick

Blacklegged ticks are parasites and live on the host’s body and can be thought of as close cousins of spiders. These ticks cannot fly or jump but can climb on vegetation’s, shrubs and grasses. They wait for a host to come in contact and find a chance to climb on the body of the host for its feed.

The black ticks are not just limited to animals but can also prey humans. They can stick to the bodies and drink blood in a slow and steady manner for days. These tick bites are generally not painful, and the host may be totally unaware of this fact that it is bitten by a tick. They suck blood, and accordingly their bodies expand to cater to the blood consumed by them. This process of expanding their bodies is known as engorgement.

Life Stages of a Tick

a tick under magnifying glass

Ticks can be related to feeding machines and have a four stage life cycle listed as below:

Eggs

This is the very first lifecycle stage of a tick. The female adult ticks can lay about 2000 eggs at a time in the month of May which is the primary stage of a tick.

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Larvae

The larvae emerge out of the egg and become active in the month of June- September. The larvae then have to wait to get attached to the host body to cater their feeding requirements. Once they start feeding on the host’s body, they drop their molt and emerge out as nymphs. The larvae stage of ticks cannot transmit diseases and do not pose a threat to the host.

Nymph

Nymphs are found to be active in the time period between the months of May and August. The ticks in this stage are mostly found to infect the hosts. They also drop their molts and turn out to be a grown-up black-legged tick adult.

Adult

It may be surprising to know that male adults do not feed in the adult stage. Adult black

are mostly active in the months of October to may. The female adults also lay their eggs in the months of spring, and thus the whole cycle continues from the beginning.

Where are Blacklegged Ticks Found?

Blacklegged ticks can transmit Lyme disease which can cause illness same as in the case of catching flu. Studies reveal that these ticks are found in as many as 37 eastern states of USA whereas the rare species of these ticks are confined to only six states. Florida to Minnesota, all these states show black legged tick population. These ticks are widely found in Manitoba, and there are high chances of encountering tick bite where the population of these western blacklegged ticks ranks high. People who reside in Manitoba are always at risk and are advised to follow all types of precautionary measures against tick infection.

What are the Diseases Carried by Blacklegged Ticks?

Blacklegged ticks are supposed to carry diseases such as Babesiosis, Anaplasmosis, and Lyme disease. Black legged ticks can prove to be dangerous if they are infected with any kind of tick borne disease. Rodents, white tailed deer’s, small mammals are considered to be the sources of these tick borne diseases and ticks can be supposed to be the carriers of these diseases. People can fall accidental prey to Lyme and other such diseases if bitten by a tick carrying tick borne diseases. The virus is transmitted to the host’s body when the ticks feed on their blood, and thus the host also becomes infected by the same.

Though it is not certain that a host is may acquire a disease if they happen to be bitten by black legged ticks. It is not mandatory that all black legged ticks are infected by disease-causing agents. Secondly, only blacklegged ticks which are in their nymph and adult stage can spread such diseases. Also, blacklegged ticks take about a days’ time that is approximately twenty-four hours to start feeding on the host. Thus there are chances that the host may be lucky to spot any such tick and detach it before it actually starts feeding.  This is why it is always said to keep a regular check on ticks.

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How do Ticks Attach to the Host’s Body?

Interesting tick on a green leaf. Dangerous parasite and carrier of infection. Ixodes ricinus.

As mentioned earlier these ticks cannot fly and jump then how do they attach themselves to the host? For all such curious minds who want to know the secret behind the mystery, here is how all this actually happens. These ticks position themselves on grass and other plants and wait for their prey to come closer to them. As soon as the prey rushes by the ticks, they do not miss a chance to grab a ride and crawls on the host’s body.

Once these ticks manage themselves to attach to the host’s body, they insert a feeding tube inside the skin to feed on the host’s blood. They also let out some cement-like substance which is a helpful agent that helps in staying attached to the host’s body. It also carries some anesthesia like agent which makes the skin numb and doesn’t let the host know that they are being attacked by ticks.

Are Blacklegged Ticks Still Active in Winter?

It is said that ticks such as American dog ticks, lone star ticks die in winter and turns out to be inactive during the season which makes people feel the same for the western black legged ticks. Are blacklegged ticks still active in winter is a common question which arises because many believe that the western black legged ticks die in winters. But they are sadly mistaken in this case as these ticks do not die in winters, and the freezing temperature does not have all the might to kill them. Other ticks may go for a feeding pause, but these ticks turn out to be very active during the chilly season.

In fact, studies reveal that these ticks kick starts their prime feed after the commencement of winters or during the first freeze. Their most favourite preys are deer’s as deer’s are very active during winters and can be found moving actively. If not deer’s, then these ticks attach to other animals, pets and even humans. So one can say that ‘Every season is tick season’ and there is no escape until and unless you pick up all the precautionary measure to stay away from a tick bite.

How to Kill Western Blacklegged Ticks?

The blacklegged ticks can create a nuisance for your pets and can cause diseases. So if you are searching out for ways on how to kill western blacklegged ticks, then here is a quick guide for you to prevent and kill ticks.

Manual Removal

If you happen to find ticks in the vicinities of your home and if they happen to infect your pets, then you should scan your pets minutely and opt for manual tick removal methods. These blacklegged ticks can be easily spotted out thus it is easy to remove and kill them. For the manual removal, you need to feel out any bumpy or swollen areas by rubbing your hands along their body length as this may be a sign of ticks infecting your pets. Combs can also be useful for doing the same. Once you find the tick, you can pull them out using a tweezer without twisting it. Once you remove the ticks, drop them in a rubbing alcohol bottle. Further, clean the infected area in order to prevent any further infections.

Oral Medications

Opting out for oral medications can work out the perfect hack to kill the ticks. There are pills which can be given to your pets which has the power to kill ticks and fleas.

Tick Shampoo

Tick shampoo is also an effective way out to kill ticks. These shampoos have medicinal contents which effectively kills the ticks and is an inexpensive way to continue the drill of killing ticks. You can use the shampoo once a week and keep your pets safe from ticks.

Tick Collars

Tick collars are also an effective way to prevent tick infection. You can tie these tick collars around the neck of your dogs, these tick collars have certain ingredients that can keep the ticks away. Make sure that these collars are in contact with the skin of your dog’s so that these chemicals pass on to its body and help in preventing ticks from causing an infestation.

Tick Sprays

You can also purchase tick sprays from the market and use it directly on your pet’s body. But make sure that the sprays do not come in contact with their eyes and face.

Tick Powder

Tick powder is also another medication method that one can use to repel ticks. But make sure that you buy the right tick powder in accordance with the age of your dogs and use it according to the user manual. Rub the powder slowly to the skin of the pets and make sure that your dogs do not inhale it as it may cause irritation and uneasiness.

Spot on Tick Drops

Spot-on tick drops are easy to use and you can use it directly on the pet’s body. Using these spot on drops on the body will kill the ticks in a days’ time and can get your pets free from these pests.

This was all you need to know about the blacklegged ticks. Do let us know if you have any questions. We would love to answer you.

 

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