Name The Lone Star Tick
Latin Name Amblyomma americanum
How do you get rid of Lone Star Ticks?
Deer Ticks are unlikely to infest your home as they prefer to live outdoors. However, thorough checks of clothing, the nape of the neck and scalp, armpits and, groin and knees, pets and objects should be undertaken when returning from risk areas.
How to identify Lone Star Ticks
Lone Star Tick eggs are minuscule and tend to be tan to red-brown. Larvae are usually less than 1 mm. Nymphs are poppy seed sized, usually 1-2 mm long with eight legs, similar-looking although smaller than adult males. Lone Star Ticks are sexually dimorphic, the females have a white star-shaped, ‘Lone Star’ spot on the centre of their scutums, while males have various white streaks and spots around the margins of their shields. After feeding, tick bodies become engorged with blood meal and their colour will shift to a light tan-grey. An unfed female tick is typically 3-5 mm in length and will expand to upwards of 10 mm when engorged with blood meal.
As is typical of ticks, the female Lone Star tick dies shortly after laying eggs (up to 5000). After hatching, the larvae have six legs and will immediately begin searching for host bodies, typically rodents and birds, for their first blood meal. It is during this first feeding that diseases are usually contracted. After their first moulting, Lone Star ticks in the nymphal stage will have eight legs and will be drawn to larger hosts (deer, humans, dogs and cats) and be capable of spreading disease. Lone Star Tick larvae and nymphs are most active in Spring/Summer with the adults being most active in Spring/Fall. A full developmental cycle usually takes about two years, although it will complete in less than one under favourable conditions.
Signs of a Lone Star Tick Infestation
Lone Star Ticks are unlikely to infest your home as they prefer to live outdoors but are more commonly accidental invaders. Those who frequent tick-infested areas should familiarize themselves with not only tick bites but also symptoms of the diseases that they transmit.
Where did they come from / how did I get them?
It is widely dispersed throughout the East, Southeast and Midwest United States often in ecotonal spaces between forest and grassland; it can also be found in Canada. Active in temperatures above 4 degrees Celsius and often found along trails of leaf littered areas, poppy seed-sized Lone Star Tick nymphs and even larger adults, are dangerously inconspicuous. Unable to fly or jump, ticks will instead ‘quest’ for hosts. In response to carbon dioxide or heat and vibration stimuli, ticks will climb a blade of grass or move to the edges of leaves, stretch their front legs forward, and mount an unsuspecting host as it brushes past. Once mounted onto its host, a tick will move around the body and select a preferred feeding site typically a warm and moist area around the neck, head, armpits, groin and knees.
What do Lone Star Ticks eat?
Commonly unnoticed, the Lone Star Tick will typically feed for seven days on a given host until it is engorged with blood meal. The Lone Star is a three-host tick and an aggressive, generalist feeder that will parasitize rodents, birds, deer, humans and domestic pets.
How Serious are Lone Star Ticks?
Lone Star Ticks are vectors of Human Monocytic Ehrlichiosis, Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI), Tularemia, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Lone Star Ticks are suspected but as yet unconfirmed carriers of Lyme Disease.
Ehrlichiosis: The Lone Star Tick is the primary vector of both Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia ewingii in North America. Ehrlichiosis disproportionately affects people over the age of 50 with weakened immune systems. The onset of symptoms usually occurs 1-2 weeks after being bitten by an infected tick and include fever, headache, fatigue and muscle aches, malaise, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and rash (more common children than adults). If treated incorrectly the disease can become fatal, causing difficulty breathing and bleeding disorders, even in previously healthy people. Most patients that are diagnosed correctly and treated early recover fully on outpatient medications. Lone Star Ticks can also transmit Ehrlichiosis to dogs.
Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI): The rash is an expanding red bullseye that can reach 8 cm (3 in) in diameter. Fatigue, headache, fever and muscle pain are all common symptoms of STARI. Although the rash appears to be symptomatic of Lyme Disease, it is not caused by Borrelia burgdorferi.
The cause of STARI is unknown, and it is unclear whether or not antibiotic treatments are helpful.
Tularemia: Tularemia is caused by the disease pathogen Francisella tularensis that can be transmitted to humans and pets not only through tick bites but by contact with other infected animal bodies, ingestion of contaminated water and agricultural dust and even through bioterrorism. Ticks bites typically catalyze glandular and ulceroglandular forms of Tularemia in combination with a dangerously high fever. Glandular Tularemia causes lymph glands to swell, typically around the armpits and groin, and Ulceroglandular Tularemia combines lymph gland swelling in addition to the formation of an ulcer at the site where the bacteria entered the body. If properly diagnosed and treated most patients fully recover within a period of several weeks through the use of antibiotics.
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: Restricted to the Rocky Mountain range of the United States and southwestern Canada, ticks may become infected with the R. rickettsii bacteria in the larval or nymphal stages. Male ticks can transfer Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever to female ticks while mating and once infected the tick carries the pathogen for life. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is commonly misdiagnosed as the flu. Typical symptoms include a fever and rash.The tell-tale red spotted rash on one’s palms or soles of the feet might not appear until after six days of other symptoms. Severe cases of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever can involve the urinary, gastrointestinal, central nervous and respiratory systems and cause death. Only knowing that a tick bite occurred recently would lead a physician to diagnose Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so it’s important to monitor your body for ticks and tick bites.
Lyme Disease: Early symptoms include headache, fever, muscle and joint pain, stiffness and fatigue in addition to the development of a bullseye-shaped rash near the bite (occurs in 70-80% of people who contract Lyme). Treated and untreated Lyme Disease symptoms may spread to other parts of the body and result in heart, muscle, joint and nervous system abnormalities that may be life-threatening. A doctor should always be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. You too should become familiar with the symptoms of Lyme disease. More information on Lyme Disease can be found here.
Thankfully, ticks must typically feed on the host body for upwards of 24 hours to successfully transmit a disease. If you find a tick on a person or pet:
Grasp the tick behind the head using tweezers and slowly remove it from the host (fingers can be carefully used if an appropriate tool is not on hand, wash hands thoroughly before and after tick removal). Do not crush the tick; crushing may lead to the release of dangerous fluids. Ensure that the mouthparts of the tick are fully removed and thoroughly wash the infected area. Seek medical attention. Save the tick body for testing and diagnosis.
How Addison can help Prevent Lone Star Ticks Infestations in the Future
When entering a suspected tick populated, or leaf-littered area:
Wear light clothing, long sleeves and long pants tucked into socks. Repellents: Deet-based skin repellent helps repel them, and Permethrin clothing treatment can kill ticks. Contact your veterinarian about available preventative treatments for ticks and other ectoparasites.
Ticks and other ectoparasites can enter the home on just about anything, on clothing, pets, people, and plants. In general, when returning from any densely vegetated, wooded or infested area where tick harbourages and activity are suspected, it is crucial to perform thorough checks of all incoming living and non-living objects. Ticks are drawn to moist and warm areas on their host bodies; be sure to check the scalp, nape, behind the ears, armpits, groin, navel and knees. Always check twice. Immediately wash and dry all clothing on high heat and be sure to shower as soon as possible. Bathe and groom your pets and regularly check for ticks and other parasites.
Certain preventative measures can be taken as part of a system of physical controls:
Keep your home clean, check under furniture and the areas that pets frequent. Repair crevices and gaps around the structure, paying particular attention to possible entry points from outdoors. Keep your grass cut and maintain an organic free barrier of at least 1m around the exterior walls of the structure using gravel or woodchips. Dispose of all animal nesting material, and evict other pest populations in and around your property as ticks parasitize most rodent and avian pest species. Keep your lawn free of debris and leaf litter, keep children’s playsets clear of wooded areas.