Garden Guide

Be aware of troublesome ticks
Jun. 19, 2013 @ 04:58 AM

Ticks, those eight-legged arachnids, that give you the creepy-crawlies. They invade your personal space to feast on your blood. Ew!

There are only a few places in the world that do not have tick pests. Unfortunately these places are not very hospitable to humans either (think Antarctica!). So, ticks are pests that we will have to live with, especially in North Carolina.

Ticks are related to spiders and mites — they have eight legs. The tick goes through four stages of development and to complete each stage, the tick must take a blood meal. Usually each stage of tick development feeds on a different type of host.

Ticks are most active in the spring, summer and fall. Some species are even active in the winter! Ticks reside in leaf litter, foundation cracks and other secluded places until they need a blood meal. They then move to grass or shrubs where they hop on board unsuspecting passersby.

The tick searches for a place on the skin to attach. Its mouthparts are barbed in order to aid with attachment (this also makes it difficult for removal!). Also, a glue-like substance is exuded to help the mouthparts stay put. Female ticks feed for up to 12 days and can increase in size by 100 times! Male ticks will also attach, but do not feed as long as females.

The female tick mates while attached and can lay thousands of eggs after dislodging. Secluded places such as crevices and leaf litter are a favorite place for ticks to lay eggs. Eggs hatch in about two weeks and the life cycle starts over.

There are four ticks that are found in North Carolina: the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, the lone star tick and the black-legged tick (formally known as the deer tick). Most of these ticks do attach to humans at some stage of their life and some carry human diseases. Seed ticks, commonly found in Lee County, are the mite-like larvae of the lone star tick and are abundant in the fall.

In Lee County, ticks are very prevalent and humans need to learn to live with them. Next week, we will discuss some of the diseases that are transmitted by ticks as well as how to prevent, control and remove them. For more information, contact our office at (919) 775-5624 or reference Insect Note AG-426: Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases in North Carolina.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Lee County Center