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What Are Ticks?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ticks are arachnids. That is, they are close relatives of spiders, but they are not spiders. They are blood-sucking parasites that come in hundreds of different types, of which only a few are of concern to humans. But those that are of concern have to be treated very seriously because they can carry disease.

Anatomy of a Tick vs. a Spider

As arachnids, ticks and spiders both have eight legs and two body parts. But that’s pretty much where the resemblance ends. Ticks have bodies that are divided into a tiny head (mostly mouthparts) and a large abdomen. The legs attach to the abdomen. Spiders have a cephalothorax (head-and-torso) and an abdomen. The legs attach to the head segment.

How and Why Ticks Bite

Ticks bite people because they are external parasites. They survive by drinking the blood of their hosts. Some ticks prefer a single type of host, such as reptiles, birds, or mammals. Other ticks are opportunists and will attach to most any type of animal they can find. These are the kind of tick that tends to attack humans.

Ticks can’t fly, so they have to climb to get onto their hosts. They may climb onto hosts directly from the ground, but other ticks will do what is known as “questing.” They will climb up a small plant, such as a stalk of grass, hold on with some legs, and stretch their other legs out to grab onto passing hosts.

Once on a host, they will climb up until they find a good place to attach themselves. They are looking for thin skin, warmth, and concealment. They will tend to attach themselves to the head, but are also often found in the pubic region. Once they find an appropriate place, they will stick their mouthparts into the skin. The numerous barbs on the mouthpart will slowly work their way in, until the entire head of the tick is submerged below the skin.

What to Do If You Find a Tick

If you are going into or live in areas where ticks are common (anywhere along the Front Range in the high country), you should check for ticks at least once a day. If you find a tick, you should remove it with a pair of pointy tweezers. Grab the tick firmly as close as you can get to your skin and pull until it comes out. As long as you didn’t squeeze potentially contaminated blood back into your body, it’s not too big a worry if the tick mouthparts stay in you.

If you suspect the tick might have been in you for a while (24 hours or more), you should have the tick identified and tested for disease, and you should be on the lookout for symptoms of tick-borne illness.

If you need help with pest control around your home, we may be able to help. Please contact Animal Pest Control Specialist today to talk to us about your pest control needs. We serve clients all along the Front Range, from Fort Collins to Castle Rock, including Denver, Aurora, and Evergreen.


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