All about Ticks

Last week, I talked about the reasons for ticks, and so now I will talk about what they are all about. After all, I know all about them. I have Chronic Lyme Disease.

I fully understand the alarm ticks bring to people wanting to protect their families and pets. A blood-feeding external parasite of mammals, birds, and reptiles, ticks are important vectors of disease-causing agents. They attach firmly to their host, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for several days while feeding. As a result, ticks transmit the widest variety of pathogens of any blood sucking arthropod.


They are not insects, though. Ticks are more closely related to spiders. There are at least 889 species of ticks in the world. I know, one species would be more than enough. In the US, they are usually broken into two categories: Dog ticks and deer ticks.

The blacklegged tick (Deer Tick) is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long (or about one-half the size of the more familiar female American dog tick). These ticks are found in wooded areas along trails. The larvae and nymphs are active in the spring and early summer. Adults may be active in both the spring and fall. The blacklegged/deer tick can transmit Lyme disease and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.

The brown dog tick (Kennel Tick) is found through most of the United States. This tick feeds on dogs, but rarely bites people. Unlike the other species of ticks, its life cycle allows it to survive and develop indoors. The adult is reddish-brown and about 1/8-inch long and usually attaches around the ears or between the toes of a dog to feed. After feeding, a female may engorge to ½-inch long. The brown dog tick is not an important carrier of the human disease.

Tick Advice

Always do a tick check if you have been outside It is best to find them before they transmit any disease. Looking for a tick? Here are some things you will need:

  • Handheld mirror
  • Tweezers or a tick spoon
  1. Find a private place, preferably a bathroom, with a mirror.
  2. Check the legs and ankles first, before moving up the body. A systematic way of checking yourself helps eliminate the chance of missing ticks, especially the smaller deer ticks. (Ticks do not jump; they are picked up in passing. The majority of ticks will be on the lower half of your body.)
  3. Check beneath the top few inches of your socks. Men should roll the leg hair back slowly, and check at the hair roots for deer ticks.
  4. Check up the legs, on the backside of your knees, around the waist of your pants or shorts, before checking the arms.
  5. Check other visible areas of skin before undressing.
  6. Undress and start again from the ground up.
  7. Check everywhere you can see, inside the thighs right up to the pelvis. Check the pubic region thoroughly.
  8. Check the armpits. Ticks are fond of warm areas on the body. 
  9. Check around the neck and hairline. Use the mirror, and feel with your fingertips. Check behind your ears. You should also check through your hair. If on the scalp, ticks will usually engorge a few inches within the hairline, so give particular attention to these areas.
  10. Use the handheld mirror to view between the buttocks and on the underside of the groin.
  11. Use the handheld mirror and the wall mirror to see along your back.
  12. Use your fingers to feel in all the crevices of your body.
  13. Check yourself again next time you’re in the shower.

Removing Ticks

  1. Remove ticks by pulling them out of the skin with the tweezers.
  2. Be careful to pull slowly, firmly, and in the direction of the hindquarters. Larger ticks are harder to remove, but easier to grip with the tweezers.
  3. Try to remove the entire tick. It’s always best to remove the whole tick. Most diseases are passed in the tick’s saliva. This is particularly the case with deer ticks.

Next week, we tackle the issue of tick sprays and the harm they can do! Have questions? Call Heidelberg Farms at (603) 501–9919.

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