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TYPES OF TICKS
The groundhog tick, or woodchuck tick is distributed in Eastern and Central United States, as well as Eastern Canada. Its scientific name is Ixodes cookei and it is the leading vector for Powassan virus in the US and Canada.
Groundhog Tick Habits
Not much is known about the groundhog tick apart from its preferred hosts and potential to carry Powassan virus. They are much less common than deer ticks or dog ticks, but can still be found on humans and pets after venturing outside.
These ticks like indoor and outdoor environments, so they will continue to thrive if brought into your house from the outside. Warm, subtropical climates are their preference, as well as cracks and crevices indoors and on kennel ceilings.
Groundhog ticks are prevalent in New England, especially Maine, where they’re the most common tick species in the state. You can usually spot them near the dens of the small animals they host on, like groundhogs, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, foxes, or minks.
Groundhog ticks are not commonly found to attack humans, but it’s not completely unheard of. They will attach themselves to dogs and cats, though, if you take your pets through a high-grass or forestry area.
Groundhog Tick Lifecycle
Like many other ticks, the lifecycle of the groundhog tick is based on its environmental conditions and access to hosts. The tick passes through larva, nymph, and adult phases like all ticks. It must have a blood meal in each phase to move on to the next.
After attaching to its host and feeding, the tick will drop off the host and molt into its next phase. Adults will seek out mates on their third and final hosts. Female adult groundhog ticks will drop off the host and lay eggs after feeding, then die.
The phases of the Groundhog tick’s life are the same as most ticks, but this tick can survive for up to one year without having a blood meal. This prolongs its lifespan more than some other common tick species in Connecticut.
Groundhog Tick Identification
The Groundhog tick resembles the deer tick in appearance, and you usually need a microscope to tell them apart. Groundhog ticks are not known vectors for Lyme disease, but deer ticks are. So proper identification could be essential in some cases.
Groundhog ticks are reddish-tan and about the size of a sesame seed. Female ticks of this species have a brown shield on their backs in the shape of a lozenge. This marking helps identify them as groundhog ticks rather than deer ticks, which have a circular shield of the same color.
It’s also possible to tell these 2 ticks apart by the season. Black-legged deer ticks are active in the spring and the fall, and groundhog ticks in the summer. Groundhog ticks have their peak active time in July.
Groundhog ticks are a vector for Powassan virus, which causes Powassan encephalitis. The disease is rare, but there are known cases of it throughout the Northeast. The groundhog tick typically picks up the virus from one of the small animals it feeds on, like a skunk or rodent. When the tick bites another animal or human, the harmful pathogens are transferred
If you find a groundhog tick on yourself or your pet, you should try to remove it immediately, as the pathogens can be transmitted within 15 minutes of being bitten. To remove the tick, grasp its mouthparts with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pull firmly without squeezing. Squeezing can cause puncturing to the body and harmful fluids to gush out. Afterward, disinfect the bite area and flush the tick down the toilet.
The best way to protect yourself from tick-borne diseases is through prevention. In knowing how ticks spread can infect you or your pets, you can take the right precautions. Always cover your arms, legs, feet, and ankles when you go hiking in a forestry area. And don’t forget to check your body and your pets’ bodies after you return from such an area. As always, the best protection is taking proper precautions.
GROUNDHOG TICK (Ixodes cookei ) Tick Control, LLC
The Groundhog Tick is a vector of disease.
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Groundhog tick map
Groundhog tick bites can cause Powassan virus.
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