Wood Ticks

What are Wood Ticks? - Wood tick is a common name that is used to describe the Ixodid (family of hard ticks) tick of the genus Dermacentor. They often are referred to as the Rocky Mountain wood tick and the American dog tick (although wood ticks are reported as thicker in shape). These parasites can be found in tall grassy areas, shrubs, woods, river valleys, and act as vectors for pathogens that cause Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever and tularaemia. These parasites are known to feed off both animals and humans. Both the Rocky Mountain area of the US and Southern parts of Canada are inhabited by the wood tick.

What do Wood Ticks look like? - Wood ticks are arachnids (adults have eight legs, no wings and no antennae) which attach themselves to a host and feed off their blood by biting them and embedding themselves in their skin. Their exterior is hard and leathery and they alter in size depending on if they have fed or not (swell with blood). They are reddish brown in color with grey/silver circular markings on their back near to the head.

wood tick

What do Wood Ticks eat / feed on? - Wood ticks are known to use several different animals as hosts throughout their lifecycle. Like other species, wood ticks have a stage life cycle - adults, eggs, larvae and nymphs. They thrive in conditions which are humid and moist and they are attracted to their hosts by carbon dioxide and heat. Animals which the larvae and nymphs may target as potential hosts include several rodents such as mice, squirrels, beavers, rats and also chipmunks. The adults primarily feed on larger mammals, such as dogs, deer, cattle, raccoons, sheep, goats and also humans.

Wood Ticks

The wood ticks lifecycle can be completed in less than a year if the conditions are right and if there are enough hosts for them to feed on (it can also take up to a few years to complete). When eggs are laid and the larvae breaks out, they initially only have six legs and must feed on a host before they fall off, molt, and enter into the next stage as a nymph. Nymphs look like small adults, but again must feed on a host, fall off and molt, before becoming adult ticks. Again, the adult tick must then feed on a host (usually a larger mammal) before it can mate and the female can lay eggs, completing the cycle. The female can lay thousands of eggs, before it dies.

Wood Tick Prevention

Wood Tick bites, symptoms and treatments - As these parasites are able to transmit a number of diseases, the symptoms from a bite may vary. However, headaches, fevers, joint pain, rashes and general flu like symptoms are all linked with these diseases. If you, your family of your pets are bitten in areas where they are known to carry infections and diseases (and rashes or any other symptom arise), you should contact a doctor immediately for diagnosis and treatment. If treatment isn’t sought early enough, it could lead to further complications and infections such as tick paralysis have the ability to be fatal. If you live in areas where wood ticks are prevalent, it may be a good idea to look into ways of tick control in your home and yard.

Prevention of the Wood Tick - In the first instance, wood tick prevention can be exercised through avoidance. It sounds straight forward, but some may knowingly take the risk. If you have been unfortunate enough to have been bitten by a tick and or infected then you may advise that avoidance is key. However, if you work, walk or constantly pass through areas prevalent with ticks there are precautions you could take to help with the prevention of the wood tick. As ticks commonly attach themselves to raised vegetation such as long grasses, shrubs, branches and in meadows - ensure you are appropriately dressed and protected by repellents if you venture into these areas. Wear footwear that covers your feet, socks that cover the ankles and long pants that cover the legs. Tuck tops into your pants so your skin cant be accessed and spray your clothes with a repellent containing Permethrin. Spray any bare skin with a Deet based repellent (friendly to skin), avoiding the eyes and mouth. If you are dog walking, also apply the relevant repellent to your pet. Try to stick to pathways where you are less likely to brush past wood ticks and perform daily checks to see if any ticks have found there way onto you, your family or your pets. Look around the ankles, behind knees, under the arms, and around the ears and hair. Ticks can be so small that it's often difficult to see them, so washing and drying clothes on a high heat should also be beneficial as this will help kill them if they are hidden in clothing.

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