Oh boy, I am glad tick season is over soon. Thanks to some camping last weekend, I’ve been pulling ticks off my little dog all week!
Curious about these little guys, I read a bit about them this morning. Here’s is just some of what I learned:
There are a lot of different species of ticks! About 900 in fact. Of those 900, there are two main kinds: hard ticks and soft ticks. From what I understand, we have hard ticks in Saskatchewan.
Ticks are not insects but arthropods, which means they’re more related to spiders than dragonflies. Just like spiders, they have eight legs. They are parasites, meaning they live off of the blood of other creatures — like your dog, and you!
If you read too much about ticks, you start to feel itchy everywhere! It’s true, at least for me!
Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult. The egg hatches into a larva. A larva (“seed” tick) has six legs. It feeds on small animals like mice, then turns into a nymph. A nymph has eight legs. It then feeds on animals like deer and cows, then turns into an adult. Adult ticks also feed on larger animals, including people and dogs, and then lay eggs in the soil and die.
You can find ticks in tall grass and wooded areas. They climb up the grass and when they sense a meal coming, like my dog and I, they wave their front legs to grab on. A tick uses carbon dioxide, scent, and body heat among other things to find a host. If they miss out, they eventually become dehydrated so they’ll have climb back down to get some water. Then they climb back up and try again.
Ticks don’t attach themselves to their host right away. Once a tick finds you, it tends to climb upward until it reaches a more protected area, often the back of the knee, groin, navel, armpit, ears, or nape of the neck. Then it begins the slow process of grabbing on. It’s important to find them before they latch on and start feeding.
If they do latch on to you, or your dog, the only recommended way of removing them is to use tweezers to grab the head, and pull out slowly. You can’t convince a tick off of you using fire or vaseline — they are actually cemented on! They can’t detach until they’ve eaten, which takes several days. Cool fact: they concentrate the blood during feeding and will return a lot of the water back to the host.
Here’s some serious stuff: you shouldn’t touch a tick with your hands, and you should wash off the spot where they latched on. Ticks can make you really sick, so it’s important to read up on Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It’s also why you should find those little guys quickly — the longer they’re attached to you, the more likely you are to have problems. Generally they’re just annoying to have around, but it’s good to be prepared.
And you know what eats ticks? Not much. A few kinds of birds, but that’s about it. My dog eats pretty much anything including flies, but I don’t think she’d eat a tick. Yuck!
Well, now that you’re feeling all creepy crawly — hey what’s that thing behind your ear? Oh, sorry, it’s nothing.