The most common ticks in Pennsylvania include the Woodchuck Tick, Rabbit Tick, Lone Star Tick, American Dog Tick, Winter Tick, Brown Dog Tick, and Blacklegged Tick (aka Deer Tick).
Ticks are not insects, but arthropods, making their closest kin spiders, mites, scorpions and daddy-long-legs. There are roughly 8 species of ticks in the U.S. but only about 12 are of any health or veterinary concern.
Adult ticks are smaller than a sunflower seed but after feasting on the blood of mammals, birds or reptiles, engorge to more than 1cm long. Most tick species have a preferred host, but will feed on whatever blood is available to them. That’s why ticks are found on livestock, deer, dogs, cats, and humans.
Ticks feed slowly, staying on the host at least several days, until engorged with blood. An engorged female tick produces a single large batch of eggs and then dies, and depending upon the species, her egg mass can range from 1,000 to 18,000 eggs.
Ticks detect their hosts through odors including carbon dioxide, ammonia, lactic acid and other body odors, as well as body heat, moisture, vibrations, and sometimes a shadow. When approached by a potential host, a tick becomes excited, waving its front legs in order to latch onto the passing host. Ticks can’t fly or jump, so they must make direct contact with their host. Once on the host, the tick may attach immediately or wander across the host, seeking a favorite area such as near the ear or other thin-skin areas. Some species are less picky and will attach anywhere.
What to do if you find a tick on a human or pet
Ticks feeding on dogs, cats, birds, reptiles or people require cautious removal:
- With a tweezers, grasp the tick behind its head and pull slowly away from the host’s skin.
- DO NOT CRUSH THE TICK, as it may release dangerous bacteria and other pathogens.
- Be sure that the tick’s mouth parts are completely removed from the wound as well.
- Thoroughly wash and disinfect the area of the tick bite.
- If concerned about health, seek medical attention immediately and take the tick with you in a small bottle with a tight lid for examination by a veterinarian or physician.
Ticks are primarily found outdoors in wooded areas and grassy areas like lawns, especially where grass is allowed to grow tall. Ticks also may be found in hidden locations within your home. To discourage them, repair any crevices or gaps in walls and foundations. Ticks also enter the home by hitchhiking on pets, people, and clothing.
During tick season, it’s a good idea to regularly inspect pets and children to make sure they are tick-free and wash any clothes which may have contained ticks. Your veterinarian can recommend a tick control for your pets.
Outdoors, keep grass mowed short and dispose of all empty bird nest materials and rodent nesting materials as necessary.
If you suspect a tick infestation, contact County Pest Control to schedule an inspection and recommendation for treatment.