What Do They Look Like?
While there are more than 25 species of ticks in Pennsylvania. The 4 most commonly encountered are the American Dog Tick, the Blacklegged (Deer) Tick, the Lone Star Tick and the Groundhog Tick.
American Dog Tick- The most commonly encountered tick in PA is easily identified by the white markings on the back. Adults are about 1/8-3/16 inches long with an overall brown color with the previously mentioned markings. Engorged females can reach the size of a small grape. Developmental time from egg to adult is 1-2 years. They are the most common transmitter of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Blacklegged (Deer) Tick- This tick is the primary vector of Lyme disease. Adult females are about 1/8 “long and males slightly smaller at 1/16”. Larva and nymphs are even smaller making it very easy to overlook an attached tick. Color is orangeish to a reddish brown. Typical lifespan is 2 seasons.
Lone Star Tick- This tick can be identified by the single silvery spot located on the back of the female. Adult females are about 1/8” long with males being slightly smaller. Color is s reddish brown. Lifespan is up to 2 years.
Groundhog Tick– Much less commonly encountered this tick is relatively small with adults about 3/32-1/8” with a tan body. They prefer there namesake as a primary host but can be found on other small animals. They are not considered a great vector for diseases.
Do They Cause Damage?
Ticks do not cause structural damage but they are potential vectors for diseases. They are known to transmit Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Babesiosis, Erlichiosis and Tick Paralysis. Tick borne diseases are treatable, however early detection is important.
Do I Have An Infestation?
Finding live ticks crawling on you or your pet could be an indication of a problem. In general, ticks prefer to rest in areas protected from direct sunlight. Tall grasses, brush, woods and the transition between these areas and low cut, manicured lawns are common places to find them. Larva, nymphs and adults will lie in wait on grasses and brush until a suitable host passes. After attaching and feeding, they drop off unit they molt, or in the case of adult females, lay their eggs.
What Can Masters Touch Do?
Control is a multi-step process that involves habitat modification such as keeping grass cut short, reducing ground cover vegetation, leaf litter, wood piles and other debris which is attractive to the small animals and mice which can carry ticks. Insecticide applications can be very effective at reducing the number of ticks in treated areas. In the case of the blacklegged Tick, special bait stations which apply an insecticide to mice can be utilized to prevent ticks from feeding on mice infected with the spirochete that causes Lyme disease, and thus passing it onto a human.
How Can You Help?
Prevention involves the habitat modifications mentioned above (keeping grass cut short, reducing ground cover vegetation, leaf litter, wood piles and other debris). Protecting pets with appropriate on-animal treatments and protecting yourself with proper clothing (long sleeves and pants) and/or insectrepellants. Whenever coming in from known tick habitat, a thorough inspection should be performed to locate any ticks prior to them becoming embedded.