One of the smallest, most common and most troublesome pests we come in contact with is the tick. These blood-sucking parasites can latch onto you or your pets any time you venture into their habitat and are capable of transmitting life-threatening diseases. Everything from Lyme disease to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to tularemia can be passed to humans or animals through the bite of an infected tick. However with some information, some tick-prevention tips and some help from your friends at Arrow Exterminators, you can make sure that these pesky pests never bother you, your family or your furry friends again.
About Oklahoma Ticks
There are many different kinds of ticks that are active in Oklahoma. The number and kind of ticks vary from season to season and can change if the weather changes dramatically or if their primary host disappears. However, there are three types of ticks that you are most likely to run into in Oklahoma: the American dog tick, the blacklegged (deer) tick and the lone star tick. We will discuss each one in detail below:
- American Dog Ticks: the American dog tick, also known as the dog tick or the wood tick, is a carrier of multiple diseases including Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. It is one of the most common and bothersome ticks and will bite anything warm-blooded. They primarily inhabit grassy fields without tree cover and like to wait, perched along the edge of trail and pathways for hosts to walk by. They are most active from April to October. Adult females have brown bodies with a whiteish-yellow ring around their mouthpiece. They are about 1/8 in long, though they can grow to about ½ in after feeding. Males are brown and white speckled and slightly smaller than males. Dog tick nymphs are cream colored with brown spots and larva are a greyish-brown and very small. They are also distinguishable because in the larva stage, a tick only has six legs. However, as a nymph or adult, a tick will have eight legs. This is because ticks are actually arachnids, like spiders and scorpions, and not insects.
- Blacklegged (Deer) Ticks: these ticks are known either as blacklegged ticks or as deer ticks and the names are often used interchangeably. Adult females have reddish-brown bodies with black legs, which is where the ticks get their name, and black mouthpieces and a black ring around their mouthpiece on their back. Adult males have black mouthpieces, black legs and black backs with cream-colored undersides. However, you do not have to worry about male deer ticks as they do not feed. Nymph deer ticks have cream-colored bodies and black with large black spot on their back; the larva typically look like smaller, six-legged nymphs. The adult deer tick is most active from October to May and nymphs are active from May to August, so you have to watch out for the blacklegged tick year-round. They are most commonly found in deciduous forests (forests with trees that lose their leaves in the winter and then regrow them in the spring). Their population is closely tied to the populations of their most common host, the white-tailed deer. In places with high deer populations, there are also high deer tick populations. They generally wait for hosts in the brush or leaf piles on the ground. This tick is a common carrier of multiple diseases, including Lyme diseases.
- Lone Star Ticks: the lone star tick is one of the most aggressive ticks in Oklahoma and will bite a human or animal, including dogs, cats and horses, of any size at any life stage, from larva up to adult. Nymphs and adults are also known to be carriers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and can transmit many other diseases, including STARI, which is unique to the bite of the lone star tick. They are predominantly active in the warmer spring and summer months, from April to August, so make sure to take precautions during this period. Adult females are light brown all over with a large white spot on their back (giving them the name “lone star”). Adult males and nymphs look the same except that nymphs are slightly larger; they are both light brown with black splotches. The lone star tick typically resides in woodlands with thick undergrowth and lots of groundcover, like fallen leaves, shrubs and vines. As aggressive parasites, they will travel long distances in search of a host and will pursue a host once one is found.
These common, Oklahoma ticks we mentioned carry a wide variety of diseases which can be extremely dangerous, and sometimes fatal, to humans. Tick-borne diseases are especially dangerous for children, the elderly and those who have other medical conditions. Many of these diseases are also extremely dangerous for our furry friends, including dogs, cats and horses. These are some of the most common tick-borne diseases and their symptoms:
- Lyme Disease: perhaps the most well-known of all tick-borne diseases, Lyme disease is spread through the bite of infected blacklegged (deer) ticks. A tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours to be able to spread the bacterium, Borrelia burgdorferi, that causes the disease. Most Lyme disease is spread by nymph blacklegged ticks, rather than adults, because they are smaller and much harder to spot and are active in the summer months when people are outside. Adult blacklegged ticks are more easily spotted and removed quickly and are active from October to May, when fewer people are outside. If someone becomes infected with Lyme disease, the first symptoms typically occur within a week. These symptoms include a characteristic bullseye shaped rash wish expands gradually as well as fever, fatigue, headache, swollen lymph nodes and joint pain. If you notice these symptoms, visit a healthcare professional immediately to get tested for Lyme disease. If caught early, it is easily treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, Lyme disease can also cause additional rashes, swelling around joints, dizziness, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet and short term memory loss.
- Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF): this disease is spread through the bite of an infected tick. Multiple ticks are hosts for RMSF, but in Oklahoma, it is most commonly carried by the dog tick. This disease is often fatal for animals and can be fatal for humans as well if it is not treated within the first few days. Symptoms typically begin two days to two weeks after someone is bit by an infected tick. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, muscle pain, stomach pain, red eyes and a loss of appetite. Most people also develop a characteristic rash, which appears a few days after the fever begins; the rash often (but not always) looks like small, pink spots on the wrists, forearms and ankles. Because not everyone develops all the symptoms, this disease can be difficult to diagnose. However, if caught early, it can be treated with antibiotics. If you are exhibiting the symptoms of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever after a tick bite, seek medical attention immediately.
- Tularemia: spread by the bite of infected dog ticks or lone star ticks, this disease can range from mild to fatal. The way symptoms of tularemia present themselves depends on the manner of contraction (there are multiple ways to acquire the bacteria that cause the disease). When acquired from a tick bite, symptoms of tularemia include extremely high fever, swelling of lymph nodes in the armpit and groin and skin ulcers. This disease is very rare and has symptoms that are similar to other, more common diseases. As such, it can be tough to diagnose. Antibiotics are used to treat the disease and it usually takes 10 days to three weeks to recover, based on how early the illness is caught. If you notice any of the symptoms of tularemia after a tick bite, seek medical help immediately.
- STARI (Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness): the exact cause of STARI is unknown and it is only transmitted through the bite of the lone star tick. It is often confused with Lyme disease as it causes similar symptoms. Symptoms include a red, bullseye shaped rash that gradually expands around the site of the tick bite, as well as fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pain. As the cause of the illness is unknown, there is still no consensus on how best to treat those with STARI. However, most symptoms will decrease after treatment with antibiotics.
- Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF): Tick-borne relapsing fever is a bacterial infection which causing recurring periods of illness followed by a return to feeling normal then a period of illness. It is transmitted though the bite of “soft bodied ticks,” which are different from the other types of ticks mentioned earlier in that they feed for shorter periods of time (usually 30 minutes or less) and live in rodent burrows, not tall grasses or forests. Humans come into contact with soft ticks when they hunt, camp or fish and sleep in cabins that have a rodent infestation or in tents near rodent burrows. Symptoms include very high fever, headache and joint pain. These usually begin about a week after the bite and last for three days, then the infected person will feel better for about a week, and then will feel sick again for about three days. This cycle can repeat multiple times unless treated with antibiotics.
Ask the Entomologist
A female dog tick will lay egg masses from 4,000-6,500 eggs, then die. An adult tick can survive over 2 years without a meal.
Why Arrow Exterminators?
Contact Arrow Exterminators and our tick control experts will eliminate every one of these blood-sucking pests that is bothering you. We know you work hard to keep your home and family safe and we want to help you protect your home and family from these dangerous, disease carrying pests. We can also eliminate ticks from commercial properties of any size. You can count on the Oklahoma tick control experts to meet all your tick elimination needs. At Arrow Exterminators we know how to get rid of these dangerous pests and address all your pest control needs. We are always “Aiming to Please” our customers and we want to bring our over 60 years of pest control expertise to work for you. You can schedule a free, no-obligation evaluation on our website or you can call us to talk about your tick problems and schedule a service appointment. You can also reach out to us on social media for more pest prevention tips and tricks. We are on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.