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Ticks are not insects; they belong to the class Arachnida, which also includes mites, spiders and scorpions. Ticks differ from insects in that they have one body region, eight legs and no antennae. Ticks are the largest members of the order Acarina and are virtually the only members of that order you can see without magnification. The order Acarina (ticks and mites) to which they belong differ from other arachnids in that their bodies are not conspicuously segmented, but the abdomen and cephalothorax are fused into one body region. They can not fly, run, hop or jump; they climb up and perch on an object until some host passes by; then they either climb on or fall on to the unfortunate creature. They feed entirely on blood of vertebrates with barbed, piercing organs; they take a firm grip on the skin and suck blood for anywhere from 15 minutes to several days - they keep on drinking until they are full.

Ticks are further divided into two families: hard ticks in the family Ixodidae, and soft ticks in the family Argasidae. Hard ticks have a hard, smooth shield on their backs and are tapered at the front with an apparent head; they are the ticks most readily recognized by most people. Female hard ticks feed once and lay as many as 10,000 eggs or more. Soft ticks lack the shield-like plate on their upper surface, have a tough, leathery, pitted skin and no distinguishable head and look like animated pieces of bark or debris. Some soft tick females can feed several times and lay 20 - 50 eggs after each meal. Both groups can swell to considerable size after a blood meal. Ticks have 4 stages in their life cycle: egg, larva, nymph and adult.

Examine all of your pets' and livestock's heads, especially around their ears and necks daily for engorged ticks. Keep vegetation, weeds and brush mowed and closely trimmed. Avoid infested areas. Remember ticks cannot burrow through clothing, so always wear protective long-sleeved shirts and trousers when visiting infested areas; tuck your pant legs into your socks. Closely inspect for ticks on your own or others skin or clothing every few hours. Their favorite places to attach to people are on the legs, thighs and groin, in armpits, along the hairline and in or behind ears.

Don't be modest when inspecting for ticks. Remember the ticks may be very small, so look for new "freckles". Vacuum baseboards and other cracks and crevices thoroughly to remove and destroy eggs and immatures. The best way to remove an attached tick from people or pets is to first apply a dab of menthol shaving cream or alcohol, fingernail polish remover or petroleum jelly before grasping the tick with a pair of tweezers or forceps as close to the head as possible and gently but firmly pull the tick straight off. Do not heat or pinch the tick with your gloved fingers, tweezers or forceps as this may inject the contents of the tick into the wound. Apply an antiseptic to the bite. Save the tick in a small vial of alcohol so it can be identified.

Ticks are of great medical importance because of their ability to act as vectors of five major groups of organisms which cause disease in humans (bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, spisrochaets and protozoans). Ticks can also cause a condition known as tick paralysis.

If bitten by a tick, seek immediate medical attention.

Ticks are extremely dangerous external parasites of warm-blooded animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and man. Their bites are not only annoying and painful but may result in localized skin inflammation, secondary infection and possible introduction of disease-causing microorganisms or pathogens. Some ticks are venomous and produce very painful bites and some ticks cause tick paralysis and lameness in people and animals. Both males and females feed on blood. Male ticks generally die shortly after mating.

Because tick movements and bites are seldom felt, you must carefully and frequently examine for ticks on your own body and clothing. Early tick removal is important since many disease organisms are not transferred until the tick has fed for 2 - 8 hours. More than 65 disease-causing pathogens are now known to be transmitted by ticks, making this group of parasites one of the most dangerous from the perspective of human and domestic animal health.

To control ticks on pets:

To control ticks in yards and buildings:

If you still are having tick problems, read the appropriate chapter in The Best Control© or The Best Control II© on CD-ROM.


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