Ten Terrifying Facts About Ticks You’ve Never Heard

Sure, we all know ticks are a nuisance but how well do you really know them? If you’ve ever owned a dog, worked in the yard, taken a walk through the woods or gone camping, you’ve probably encountered at least one tick during the course of your lifetime. And you probably know at least a few facts about ticks—that they’re blood-suckers; that they feed on mammals, including humans; and that they sometimes carry Lyme Disease. But here are ten facts that we can almost guarantee you don’t know about ticks:

Ticks are arachnids.

Like mites, centipedes, and spiders, they belong to the Arachnida class of the phylum Arthropoda. In their adult and nymph stages of development, ticks have four pairs of legs, as all arachnids do.

Ticks can cause more than Lyme.

Bites from a Lone Star Tick can cause rare allergies to red meat in humans. Dogs can also develop this allergy and will react with itching, skin lesions and hair loss if their diets contain beef, lamb or pork.

Ticks often inject their hosts with nerve poison.

If you’ve ever been bitten by a tick but didn’t feel it, it’s not because you’re insensitive. The fact is that sometimes ticks inject anesthetic into their host’s bloodstream, a sort of nerve poison that contains neurotoxins. Although some people have an allergic reaction to the toxin, for most of us, it acts as a very local anesthetic, preventing us from feeling the bite—and the subsequent bloodsucking.

Ticks are daredevils.

Adult hard-shelled ticks find hosts through a process called questing. While questing, ticks climb to the very edges of leaves and blades of grass. They tediously balance on their perilous perches by only their third and fourth pair of legs. The first pair of their legs, they hold outstretched waiting to grab onto an unsuspecting host as soon as it rushes past. It’s the train hopping of the tick world.

Ticks cement themselves to you.

Ever wonder why ticks are so difficult to remove once they clamp onto your skin? It is not just because of their latching mouthparts. Hard-shelled ticks secrete a sort of “tick cement.” This glue-like substance is known as cementum and it helps them stick to hosts.

Some ticks can live a long time without food.

Instead of starving to death when they can’t find a host to feed upon, sometimes ticks go into a sort of stasis until the situation improves. In fact, it is said that the American dog tick larvae can live up to 540 days without a meal, and dog tick nymphs can survive as many as 584 days without food. We are not even safe in the winter. Unlike mosquitoes, those other annoying backyard bothers, which die off after winter weather, ticks can remain active even when there is snow on the ground.  Winter temperatures need to drop below 10 degrees Fahrenheit for a sustained time for ticks to begin dying.

Ticks have no boundaries.

Recent studies have shown that infected ticks can be carried all over the country by migrating birds. Ticks will hitch a ride on any host, whether it be migrating deer or a dog on vacation and can be relocated to the host’s destination.

Ticks are “programmed” to affix to areas around your neck and head.

Ticks prefer skin on the area of head, neck, and ears because it is soft and can be penetrated easily. This can make young children and pets, in particular, more susceptible to tick bites, since their heads are lower to the ground or they frequently roll around and play on the ground.

Ticks can be invisible.

Or, at least it might seem like it. The larvae stage of a tick is as small as a grain of sand. In the nymph stage, a tick is the size of a poppy seed. A tick bite from a nymph is usually painless and the attached tick may go completely unnoticed.

Ticks can spread many types of diseases.

While Lyme disease is the most prevalent, the list of tick-borne illnesses continues to grow. The CDC lists 16 known tick-borne diseases that are found in the United States. Powassan or POW can go from the tick’s body into your bloodstream in a matter of a few minutes after a bite. POW virus can cause inflammation of the brain and inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord, leading to long-term neurological problems.

Ticks can definitely be terrifying, but there are things we can do to lower our risk of tick bites. Some of these things include using tick prevention products on your pets (especially dogs), using repellants that contain 20 percent or more DEET, picaridin, or IR3535 on exposed skin, and applying tick control sprays to reduce the number of ticks in treated areas of your yard. Our residential tick control specialists can create a strategy to help eradicate existing tick infestations and prevent new colonies from forming in your yard by implementing an effective barrier treatment that eliminates ticks before they can get to you.