Hiking Info For The Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Ticks : Information to Know About Them
Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids like scorpions,spiders, and mites. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly, and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete feeding. Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs (not from trees). When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host.
Ticks can only crawl; they cannot fly or jump. Ticks found on the scalp have usually crawled there from lower parts of the body. Some species of ticks will crawl several feet toward a host. Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45 Fahrenheit.
It is important to remember that although ticks are thought of as being a threat during the warm weather months of spring and summer, they may also be prevalent during the cool weather of the fall and have even been observed during unseasonable warm weather during the winter. Despite the time of year, if you are going to be involved in outdoor activities, precautions should be taken to avoid tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Although at least 15 species of ticks occur in Tennessee, only a few of them are likely to be encountered by people: American dog tick, lone star tick, blacklegged (deer) tick, brown dog tick, and winter tick. American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
One of the most frequently encountered ticks is the American dog tick, also sometimes known as the wood tick. The larvae and nymphs feed on small warmblooded animals such as mice and birds. The adult American dog tick will feed on humans and medium to large mammals such as raccoons and dogs.
Unfed males and females are reddish-brown and about 3/16-inch long. Females have a large silver-colored spot behind the head and after feeding will become ½-inch long or about the size of a small grape. Males have fine silver lines on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. Males are sometimes mistaken for other species of ticks because they appear so different from the female. In Tennessee the adults are most active in April, May, and June. By September the adults are inactive and are rarely observed. The American dog tick can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, and possibly ehrlichiosis to humans.