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SPECIES OF TICKS
LONE STAR TICK (Amblyomma americanum ) Tick Control, LLC
Amblyomma americanum, commonly known as the lone star tick, northeastern water tick, or turkey tick, is widely distributed throughout the eastern United States. In the past, they were usually found in southern states, but in recent years they’ve become more numerous in the Northeast. Populations of lone star ticks were reported in Connecticut’s Fairfield and New Haven counties as recently as this year. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1911661?query=featured_home
Lone Star Tick Habits
Lone star ticks like forests with dense undergrowth where they can hide and quest for their hosts. They are aggressive feeders, attacking a wide range of hosts – with humans included. Their preferred host is the whitetail deer, so they are prevalent in areas where deer are abundant.
The lifespan of a lone star tick depends on its environment and the availability of hosts. Ticks are well-adapted to survive long periods of time without feeding on a host, and can even absorb moisture from humidity in the air. Consequently, dry and overly warm conditions can reduce this tick’s lifespan.
The bite from a lone star tick can go unnoticed since it’s generally painless. Most people don’t realize this tick has latched onto them until after a rash appears. These ticks will bite domestic dogs and cats if they venture into areas with dense undergrowth, allowing the tick to enter your house. They cannot survive indoors, however. The best prevention against bringing them into your home is to simply avoid areas where lone star ticks are prevalent.
Lone Star Tick Lifecycle
Lone star ticks go through the typical tick life stages of egg, larva, nymph, and adult. They are a three-host tick, meaning they need a different host for their blood meal in each phase of life after hatching. As larvae, they quest for a host, typically raccoons, birds, rodents, or even cats and dogs. They’ll remain latched onto their host from 4-7 days, then drop off so they can molt into nymphs.
As in the larva stage, nymph lone star ticks prefer smaller animals as hosts. They can attach themselves to their host in as little as 10 minutes and take 5-6 days to feed. Adult ticks will seek out larger animals to feed on. At this stage, they’re also looking for mates. Once females are fertilized and engorged on their blood meal, after 7-10 days, they drop off the host and lay up to 3,000 eggs.
Although in earlier stages of life these ticks prefer smaller animals as hosts, they are not unknown to attack humans at any point in their lifecycle – larva, nymph, or adult. Depending on what stage they’re in, lone star ticks can be active between late April and late September.
Lone Star Tick Identification
The female lone star tick has a silvery-white spot on her back, resembling a star. Male ticks don’t have the star but instead black markings. Both are a dark brown color. When the female becomes engorged, her body expands 4 times its size and turns gray – the white star can still be observed on her scutum near her head.
As larvae, these ticks only have 6 legs; as nymphs and adults, they have 8. As previously mentioned, they don’t like the indoors, so if you find one inside it was probably carried there by a pet. They’re also found in shady environments since they cannot survive under long sun exposure. It’s best to avoid sitting on the ground or on logs and stumps in particularly bushy areas, as they’re more likely to be here.
These ticks like to sit on vegetation and wait for a warm-blooded mammal to pass by, so they can latch onto them. As well as in forests, you can commonly find lone star ticks in transition zones between the woods and grasslands, like lawns or grassy meadows.
Lone star ticks can carry bacteria that cause diseases in humans and dogs. These are Ehrlichia chaffeensis, which causes monocytotropic ehrlichiosis in humans; Ehrlichia ewingii, which causes human and canine granulocytic ehrlichiosis; and Francisella tularensis which causes tularemia.
It’s also possible to get a rash illness from a lone star tick bite, with the rash resembling that of Lyme disease. These ticks are very unlikely to be vectors for Lyme disease, though. It’s also been discovered that lone star tick saliva contains alpha-gal, which causes a meat allergy. Consequently, a bite from this tick can cause humans to develop a severe allergic reaction to meat products.
Lone star ticks are on the rise in Connecticut. Documented as aggressive attackers of humans and animals, they are considered extremely harmful. The best defense against tick-borne illness is to educate yourself and take precautions. Avoid forests with large underbrush, and if you do walk through these areas, wear long sleeves, pants, socks, and closed-toe shoes. And remember to check yourself and your pets for ticks immediately upon returning home. With the right preparations, you can protect yourself from the harmful effects of these ticks.
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