Tick Control: How to Get Rid of Ticks

Ticks (Ixodida: Arachnida)

Ticks are small animals, similar to insects and spiders. They resemble large mites and are important in agriculture and medicine, as they are parasites of humans and animals. Two families of ticks occur in our Pacific Northwest area. These are hard ticks (ixodids) and soft ticks (argasids). Hard ticks remain on their hosts for several days while taking a blood meal. Soft ticks usually feed on their hosts only at night and hide by day.

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General Facts/Information of Ticks

Ticks feed exclusively on blood of animals, piercing the host's skin with their mouth parts. Unless the tick is removed, it remains feeding for hours or even days before becoming fully engorged. There are three common kinds of ixodid ticks in Washington that bite humans: the Rocky Mountain wood tick, the American dog tick, and a tick found in western Washington. These species are usually encountered outdoors in bushy woodland areas, because the early stages feed on rodents. Later stages feed on a variety of animals, large and small. The brown dog ticks is primarily a pest of dogs and only rarely bites humans. It lives in dog kennels, houses, and other areas where dogs are kept. All sages of this tick feed on dogs.

Several species of Ornithodoros ticks occur in Washington. These are argasid ticks that feed rapidly and will engorge in less than an hour. Their normal hosts are rodents. Argasids (females) lay several hundred eggs, while ixodids are capable of laying several thousand.

Life Cycle. The life cycle of all of our ixodid ticks are similar, although the host range and duration of life stages vary. Three separate blood meals, generally from hosts of different size, are required to complete the stages of development.

Seasonal Abundance. Ticks are most active in the spring when vegetation begins to grow. By July or august (in higher elevations), adults or nymphs that have not found a host seek a protected site to avoid summer heat. Ticks are most abundant in brushy areas where vegetation is sufficient to support both large and small animals. They are most common near trails and openings where they are likely to encounter passing hosts.

The brown dog tick differs in its pattern of seasonal activity because it is closely associated with dwellings. All of the life stages can be found at any time of the year. When not feeding, the ticks hide in cracks, corners, or moldings of buildings where dogs are housed.

Disease associated with Ticks. Ticks bites are potentially dangerous to humans both from the effects of the bite itself and from transmitted microbes that cause disease. Throughout the United States, rocky Mountain spotted fever is transmitted bythe Rocky Mountain wood tick, the American dog tick, and to a lesser extent, the brown dog tick. In Washington, only the first tof these is known as a transmitting agent. The brown dog tick and American dog tick can also spread malignant jaundice to dogs. Tularemia or "rabbit fever" is transmitted to humans by the American dog tick and Rocky Moutain wood tick. Ornithodoros ticks transmit agentsof relapsing fever, a spirochete.

The bite of the tick itself can cause dermatitis (an inflammation of the skin), secondary infections, and a condition known as tick paralysis, which is rare. Tick paralysis is caused by the prolonged but rapid feeding of a female tick that results in transmission of an introduced toxin, "ixovotoxin." Early removal of the tick results in the complete recovery of the affected animal or person. Failure to remove the tick may progress to ascending paralysis and death of the host.

Control. The method of tick control will vary with the species. Tick control is often a personal action and pest control operators (PCOs) are normally not involved directly unless there is a yard, home problem or infestation inside your workplace.

Pest Fighter pest control company is a professional, licensed and insured pest control operator (PCO) located in the Greater Seattle area, serving King County, Pierce County and Snohomish County. Pest Fighter not only prevents pest problems, but we offer an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) solution for both treating pest problems and monitoring for the presence of pests and pest damage. For help in controlling ticks in your area of Washington, contact your local Pest Fighter or pest control operator (or PCO).