All About Ticks, Bites, and Tick-borne Illnesses
Ticks are found on all 7 continents and carry more zoonotic pathogens than any other type of vector, meaning they bring more types of pathogens over to people from animals than any other creature.
As of 2020, 27 tick-borne pathogens have been identified globally, and 18 of them are found in the United States & Canada. According to the Tick Awareness Canada Association (TACA), 18 species of ticks can generally be found across Canada.
It is speculated that climate change may be why tick populations are spreading into new areas, increasing tick-borne illnesses in humans.
There should be more awareness about ticks & tick-borne, so let’s take a look.
Introduction to Ticks
Ticks are arachnids and do not belong to the class Insecta meaning they are not insects. They are external parasites and drink mostly mammal, avian and reptilian blood. 900 species of ticks have been found all over the world.
There are three tick families, the Ixodidae, the Argasidae, and Nuttalliellidae. The major families are Ixodidae, hard-bodied ticks with 700 species, and Argasidae, with 200 species. The Nuttalliellidae has only one species, and it is only found in Aftrica.
The Ixodidae are by far the more serious family as it includes blacklegged ticks, dog ticks, and lone star ticks.
Ticks have an ovoid/pear-shaped body. Ixodidae have a hard shield termed as scutum and a beak-like structure at the front, whereas Argasidae’s are without a hard shield and mouthparts are located on the underside of their body. Ticks live up to 2 to 3 years and undergo 4 stages in their lifecycle, namely egg, larva, nymph, and finally an adult.
Hardiness of Ticks
Ticks are extremely tough and hardy. During dormant periods, their metabolism slowdowns, which lets them survive for extensive periods. They can endure drought for 18 weeks and live without a host for 36 weeks. Ticks can also withstand extreme temperatures. They can survive −18°C for more than two hours and −7°C and −2°C for at least two weeks. They have even been found in the chills of Antarctica, feeding on penguins! Their endurance and resilience are almost scary.
Habitat of Ticks
Tick species are widely distributed around the globe. For a supporting ecosystem, ticks require two elements. Enough supportive hosts and high humidity levels. Ticks tend to flourish more in warm, humid climates and where there is sandy soil, hardwood trees, rivers, and the presence of animals. A habitat preferred by ticks is where an unmaintained area meets a maintained one, such as where a lawn meets the forest or an overstory of trees or shrubs. 82% of tick nymphs are found in the 3-meter boundary closest to the lawn's edge.
How Ticks Locate Hosts
You’d be amazed to know that these parasites locate their hosts by sensing their body heat, odour, moisture, and vibrations and can even detect carbon dioxide levels in the breath at nighttime using a minute cavity known as Haller’s organ. Haller’s organ is located at the terminal segment of the first pair of a tick’s legs and, ticks can even use it to perceive infrared light emanating from a host’s body.
How Ticks Attack
People think ticks jump onto their hosts, but this is a misconception. Ticks are incapable of flying or jumping. What they do is wait. Using their 3rd and 4th pair of legs, they maintain their position on a grass blade or a leaf. In contrast, their frontal legs are ready to grasp and climb onto any passing host upon receiving an olfactory or environmental stimulus.
Some ticks instantly attach themselves and start feeding, while some search for thinner skin. Upon locating the suitable spot, they grasp and cut into the epidermis using chelicerae (specialized appendages), making a hole. Then they insert a hypostome, a rugged harpooned-like structure near their mouth that allows them to stabilize firmly on a host. An anticoagulant (blood thinner) is then secreted to stop platelets from aggregating while they feed. This is when diseases get transmitted from the tick to the host.
Diet of Ticks
The diet of ticks is totally comprised of blood, and they do not use any other food source. All of their nutritional requirements are fulfilled by consuming it. They need blood to grow, develop instars, and lay eggs. Their hematophagous diet is the sole reason that ticks are vectors of many debilitating diseases affecting humans and other animals.
Ticks can harbor more than one pathogen and transmit more than one pathogen to humans and other animals. These includeLyme disease, Alpha Gal allergies, Babesiosis, Bartonella infection, Borrelia mayonii infection, Borrelia miyamotoi infection,Bourbon virus infection, Colorado tick fever, Ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus infection, HGA- Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis, Mycoplasmosis infection, Powassan disease, Q Fever, Relapsing Fever Tick Fever also known as Recurrent Fever or Famine Fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF), Rickettsia, STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness), Tick paralysis, Tularemia infection.
All of these are severe debilitating diseases and shouldn't be taken lightly.
information provided by: Provincial Public Health Unit of the Canadian Government
Lyme disease is the most common disease caused by ticks. It is caused by a bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. In the genus Ixodes, at least 15 species of ticks are a vector of this bacterium.
The symptoms include fever, fatigue, neuroborreliosis, arthritis, cranial nerve palsy, erythema migraines, carditis, and influenza-like illness.
Once discovered, ticks should be safely removed as soon as possible. If a tick gets removed within 24 hours, the chances of transmitting diseases are more diminutive.
Ticks are to be pulled off using tweezers very carefully. Grasp them with tweezers close to the mouth and not the body. Squeezing the body could possibly squeeze their possibly infectious toxic bodily fluids into the host's system. Pull them out without rotation. They can be frozen with either a custom spray or medical wart remover prior to removal.
Dispose of the ticks either by dropping them in soapy water or alcohol, flushing them down the toilet, or sticking them to a disposable tape. Fold the tape over them and then throw it away.
Tick bite prevention is very important and you can safely exercise it with TotalSTOP. TotalSTOP is a DEET-free insect repellent utilizing Icaridin as an active ingredient. Icaridin is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), the CDC, and is EPA-Registered. It provides long-lasting, 12-hour protection from all kinds of ticks and mosquitos and 10-hour protection from black flies.
Icaridin is approved for use in 40+ countries, and TotalSTOP is perfect for the whole family including individuals with skin sensitivities, children that are 6+ months, pregnant, and nursing mothers!
About The Author:
Abdullah is a certified gold-medal horticulturist. Passionate about gardening since childhood, he chose it as a career and now works as a senior horticulturist and also dedicates his time to leading his village farming community. Currently they are trying to plant more trees and flowering vines and shrubs to make their village attractive. Most of Abdullah's time is spent gardening, painting, moth rearing, tending to his pet fish and frogs, and community service.