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Ticks are part of the Arachnid Group with spiders and mites. Both males and females consume blood meals (unlike mosquitos, in which only the adult females feed on blood).

A tick on human skin

Ticks feed off a host between life stages. The ticks drop off when finished feeding to digest the meal, and molt into the next stage of life. They have barbed mouth parts and secrete a form of cement around the mouth during feeding, which makes them hard to remove.

They can pick up diseases while feeding off a host (deer or white-footed mouse) and can pass those pathogens on to others during future feedings.

Are ticks dangerous?

Ticks are to blame for several serious diseases such as Lyme disease, Anaplasmosis, Borrelia Miyamotoi, Babesiosis and the Powassan Virus. Different ticks carry different diseases.

The diseases are classified as either bacterial, protozoal, or viral. Antibiotics can often be administered, except in the case of a virus, when only the symptoms can be treated.

Ticks are the #1 cause of disease transference to humans and domestic animals in North America, and 2nd worldwide.

How do ticks get diseases?

A tick can ingest pathogens while feeding from an infected host (i.e. white-footed mouse or deer) that carries a disease such as Lyme Disease. After feeding off the host, the tick then becomes infected with the disease and can transfer it the next host with subsequent feedings (i.e. rabbit, dog, human).

Can a tick transmit more than one disease?

Yes, a single tick bite can transmit more than one disease. This is called a “co-infection”. A tick needs to be attached for a minimum of 36 hours to transmit Lyme Disease.

What do ticks feed on?

Ticks attach themselves to a host (i.e. birds, white-footed mouse, deer, dogs, humans) to consume a blood-meal. The smaller the tick, the smaller the host.

Where are ticks found?

Ticks are sensitive to desiccation, which means they can dry out in the hot sun. They prefer transitional areas such as the tall plants and grasses found between forests and fields, as well as the areas beside roads and trails.

When are ticks active?

Ticks are active in the warm months of the year (April through September). Ticks start “questing” (i.e. searching for a host) at approximately 4° Celsius.

What are ticks attracted to?

Ticks are attracted to movement, body heat and exhaled CO2 (carbon dioxide). When a host is sensed nearby, a tick may climb tall grass or plants hoping to catch a ride.

Ticks have eight legs, and 4 of the legs have sensory organs which detect odours on the host. Although ticks do consume blood meals, most of their lives are spent unattached to a host.

How to avoid tick bites:

The best way to avoid diseases spread by ticks it to avoid tick bites. Avoiding tick infested areas is best, but you can take some precautions before and after entering these areas.

Before entering infested areas:

  • Wear long-sleeve shirts
  • Wear long pants and light coloured clothing (so ticks are easier to see)
  • Tuck pants in your socks or boots to prevent the ticks from going underneath the pant leg
  • Walk in the center of the trail to avoid the long grass
  • Tick repellents can be sprayed on to the outer pant legs (use .5% permethrin spray on clothing)
  • Use an insect repellent containing over 20% DEET, picaridin IR3535 to skin.

After exiting infested areas:

  • Visually check yourself and others over for ticks after exiting these areas, ideally within 2 hours. Ticks may linger on clothing for a while before deciding to feed.
  • Inspect all the following areas: base of skull, scalp, ears, underarms, belly button, waistline, pelvis, groin area and behind knees.
  • Bag your clothing and put in the dryer on the hot setting for a minimum of 10 minutes before washing. This will kill ticks because are they are sensitive to desiccation (drying out). Washing clothing alone will not kill them.

How to safely remove a tick:

If you find a tick, use a pair of pointed tweezers and grab it by its mouth parts, as close to the skin as possible. Slowly pull the tick upwards, don’t twist. Disinfect the bite site. Don’t squish the tick as this could make it regurgitate and release potential disease pathogens.

It has been suggested that applying rubbing alcohol around the area where the tick is embedded seems to make them easier to remove.

Should I keep the tick?

Yes, keep the tick in a baggie or bottle submerged in rubbing alcohol for several weeks in case symptoms develop.

How can I protect my back yard from ticks?

Backyards that border onto wooded areas need protection from ticks. Here are some recommendations:

  • Keep lawns mowed short.
  • Eliminate brush and weeds.
  • Eliminate leaf litter and yard waste.
  • Keep outside stored items off the ground 12-18” and away from structures.
  • Increase sunlight and lower humidity at the ground level.
  • Prune shade trees.
  • Apply a permethrin based personal repellent (according to directions) when outdoors.
  • Hire a qualified Pest Control Professional to treat tick habitats.

Play Areas:

Place play areas and patio furniture on hardscape, away from wooded areas to reduce tick exposure. For example, use gravel, mulch, pavers or concrete as a platform.

A 3’ wide hardscape can be created between wooded areas and the lawn which can also be a focal point for treatment.

Will a perimeter spray treatment eliminate the risk of tick borne diseases?

No, but it will “reduce” the risk.

Will the spray treatment damage my trees and plants? What about my vegetable garden?

The application is safe for trees, grass and flowers. Edible plants are not treated.

Is it safe for my cat and dog?

People and animals need to stay off the treated areas until the product dries. This will depend on the outside temperature (20-60 minutes).

The product is safe to go on once dry. PERMETHRINS ARE EXTREMELY TOXIC TO CATS (FATAL), although only when wet (or if inadvertently applied to a cat, such as when an owner uses a dog product on the cat).
*** Ensure outdoor cats stay away from treated areas until dry***

What treatment is applied?

A spray treatment containing .4% permethrin has found to be very affective against ticks. This is applied to specific tick-known habitats.

History and Facts about Lyme Disease:

Lyme disease was first discovered in 1976 and has been on the increase since then. It is the No. 1 vector-borne disease in the U.S. The disease was first discovered in Lyme, Connecticut, therefore, the name.

What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?

In about 70%-80% of cases, the disease begins with a spreading rash at the bite site resembling a bull’s eye (Erythema migrans) after 7 days.

Flu-like symptoms are often the first to be felt followed by headaches, aching muscles, stiff neck, chills, joint pain, sore throat, loss of appetite, nausea, swollen glands and vomiting.

Lyme disease mimics many other diseases, making it hard to diagnose. Birds are known the carry the ticks from one location to another while in the larval or nymph stage.

What type of tick carries Lyme Disease?

The Black-legged tick (Ixodes Scapularis, also known as deer tick), is the most concerning because it can carry Lyme and other diseases.

Types of Ticks:

The Black-legged Tick (also known as deer tick)

The black-legged tick has 2-year life cycle. Ticks can carry and transferring more than one disease. The females are 1/8” long, males are a little smaller. The shield is dark brown/black, with the female having an orange/red back, no festoons on the bottom of the shield. The mouth parts are long and rectangular.

The adult males do NOT feed on humans. The female ticks can bite anywhere on the body (no preference). The tiny 6-legged larvae are about the size of a period on a page (.) and feed first feed from a white-footed mouse. The ticks pick up the disease from the mice.

After molting and becoming an 8-legged nymph the following spring, the tick finds a larger host to feed off (i.e. reptiles, deer, dogs or humans), transferring the disease.

The American Dog Tick (also called Wood Tick):

The American Dog Tick is ¼” long with a reddish/brown back. It has a hard plate on its back which engorges with blood during feeding (male-full shell, female-half shell before feeding as shown in picture below). It has marking on the bottom of the shell called festoons.

The American Dog Tick does not carry Lyme disease, but can carry other diseases, depending on the geographical location.

Lone Star Tick:

Females are ¼” long and are more rounded in shape with a long rectangular mouth part. The female is reddish brown with a white spot on the shield. The male is reddish brown with light markings on the body. The nymphs can attack in swarms, preferring the lower body (buttocks/groin).

This tick is widely distributed throughout the Eastern US by the white-tailed deer and turkey populations. It has now been confirmed in Ontario. The Lone Star Tick is known for transmitting alpha-gal allergy.

This is a pathogen, not a disease. It creates an allergy to red meat (beef, pork or lamb). Victims experience upset stomach, hives, swelling and anaphylaxis (in rare cases) hours after consuming red meat. This is known to resolve itself over time but can return after a new tick bite.

Brown Dog Tick:

The brown dog tick is 1/8” in length with short hexagonal shapes mouth parts. There are no markings on the shell. This tick is not found in wooded areas or fields but rather in and around structures where dogs are found. They prefer dogs but will feed on humans.

They can be found in the ears of dogs or between the toes, making them a nuisance. A heavy infestation can affect a dog’s vitality. After a tick feeds, it drops off to digest the meal or to lay eggs, then can attach to another dog. Dogs pick up these ticks from kennels or an infested residential home.

A female can lay up to a few hundred to 5000 eggs in areas such as beneath baseboards, cracks and crevices, and carpeting. The hatched larvae can survive up to 8 months while waiting for a dog to pass by for a meal. This tick cannot survive outdoors during Ontario winters.

Control of the Brown Dog Tick:

A chemical and insecticide dust application by a qualified pest control company to the areas where the dog resides indoors and outside is required to eliminate this tick. Ideally, the treatment of the dog by a veterinarian should be completed on the same day as the chemical application to the premises.

A second treatment, one month after the first is recommended to eliminate any larvae and nymphs that have hatched from eggs that were not affected by the first application.
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