Discover what a tick is and how they can spread disease.

What Is A Tick?

Discover what a tick is and how they can spread disease.
Ticks: Waiting in the Brush for a Blood Meal!

When it comes to disease transmission, ticks transmit a greater variety of infectious organisms than any other group of insects or non-insect arthropods.  Ticks are obligated blood sucking parasites that will often need to be identified and controlled by a pest control professional.  Ticks, like insects, are arthropods, and therefore classified within the Phylum Arthropoda.  But ticks are not insects!  Ticks are in the arthropod class Arachnida, and they share this class with their close relatives, the mites, spiders, scorpions.  Some of the more commonly encountered and medically important tick species include the black legged (deer) tick, the western black legged (Pacific) tick, American dog tick, brown dog tick, Lone star tick and the Rocky mountain wood tick.

Common habitats for ticks include woodland areas, especially along trails and edges of forests.  They are also found in grassy fields and in areas with or surrounded by tall grasses.  These same habitats are usually where tick hosts, such as mammals, ground-dwelling birds and lizards, are also found.

Ticks cannot jump or fly.  Ticks find their hosts by a process called questing.  Questing ticks will crawl up blades of grass or perch on the edges of leaves on the ground in a posture with their front legs extended upward and waving about.  In this type of behavior the tick is essentially smelling the air for a host.  Once a suitable host is detected, the tick then climbs on to the host as it passes by. After climbing onto its host, a tick will spend several hours crawling around in search of a suitable feeding site.  On humans, ticks will spend a fair amount of time migrating to preferred areas such the head and neck.  On animals, ticks may look for places like the ear, or other areas where the skin is thinner.

Of all arthropod vectors, ticks transmit the widest array of disease-causing organisms.  Different species of ticks are capable of vectoring multiple pathogens. The potential for a tick to harbor a disease-causing organism depends on the geographic area, the tick species and the individual tick.  But while not all ticks carry disease-causing organisms, there are populations of infected ticks throughout the U.S. The bottom line is that you should take any tick bite seriously. This is one of the main reasons why there is a need for tick control.

So what can you do to avoid the bites of these little bloodsuckers? Tick management strategies should include a combination of several integrated pest management tactics, including habitat modification, removal of tick hosts, pesticide application and personal protection.

For expert advice, contact your local Ehrlich office straightaway.

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Dr. Nancy Troyano

Nancy Troyano, Training Manager / Entomologist at Rentokil North America, is responsible for leading and supporting the development and training of Rentokil technicians throughout North America. Nancy works closely with Technical Field Trainers and Line-of-Business Managers to develop and implement a comprehensive training program for new and existing technicians. Nancy joined Rentokil after receiving her PhD from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) in 2009. Follow Nancy on Google+

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