Tick Awareness is important. In part 1, we covered the tick reports received that week: American Dog Tick and Deer Tick. Today, we will dive deeper into other the other medically important tick, the Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum). While I haven't received a report of them yet this year, don't count them out.
LONE STAR TICK
The Lone Star Tick, as other ticks, is a blood-feeding, parasitic, 8-legged arthropod. Lone Star Tick gets its name from the white/yellowish dot on the female tick's reddish-brown scutum (back plate or shield). Males lack this spot but do have lighter markings along the margin of the body. (I unscientifically think it looks like a pie crust pattern.) These ticks may be described as more round in shape compared to the oblong shape of American Dog Tick or Deer Tick bodies. Alas this is subjective as ticks may appear in various sizes and shapes as they feed and grow. At 3/16 inch long they are similar in size to the American Dog Tick, yet are larger than Deer Tick.
Lone Star Tick may have once been associated with Southern states, but it is now found in Ohio and beyond. Here in Ohio, southeastern Ohio is a high density area. Their preferred habitat will involve shade. They can be found along uncut grassy roadsides, meadows as well as forested shrubby underbrush, near waterways and by animal dwellings, but shade is a common environmental preference regardless of where they dwell. Lone star ticks feed on most animals and can actually be dispersed while feeding on birds. However, some reports indicate birds are not a favorite host, with the exception of wild turkey. In some areas, Lone Star Tick is known colloquially as the Turkey Tick, due to its common use of wild turkey as a host. It also feeds heavily on white-tail deer. Depending on conditions, Lone star tick has a 2 years lifecycle in Ohio. Females die after laying eggs. Adult ticks can survive 8 months to 2 years without feeding.
Lonestar is not known to transmit Lyme, but can transmit other diseases such as Tularemia, Ehrlichiosis, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and has been associated with Tick Paralysis among others. Remember that ticks can carry more than one disease organism and can transmit more than one disease while feeding. Lone Star Tick's claim to fame these days is the possible correlation between Lone Star bites and developing an immune response, or food allergy, to red meat in humans. This allergy, known as alpha-gal syndrome occurs in some people when their immune system reacts to a sugar in the tick's saliva while feeding. The CDC website here shares that more research is needed to determine with certainty the relationship between tick and syndrome. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology site here does reference the Lone Star Tick as a possible source of the allergy. I am not a doctor nor an allergist but am sharing this information as a possible health consequence of Lone Star Tick feeding among the other medically-important diseases that can be spread by this and other ticks. As with all things medical, a doctor or allergist should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment.
Clearly, the potential consequence to human health exhibited by bites of any of our 3 medically important ticks emphasizes the importance of tick PREVENTION as these illnesses are preventable by reducing the risk of tick feeding in the first place.
PREVENT TICKS FIRST!
- Wear long pants and long sleeve shirts if entering tick habitats.
- Tuck pants into socks and shirts into pants to limit tick access to skin.
- The application of DEET insect repellents can help, at least 20-25% DEET is recommended.
- Permethrin-treated clothing is available to kill or repel ticks.
- Always do a TICK CHECK after returning from outdoor activity, especially tick-heavy habitats.
When it comes to permethrin-treatment, clothing can be purchased pre-treated from outdoor supply companies and usually last through several washes. You may treat your own clothing with appropriately labeled products, following all label instructions. These products are NOT for skin-contact and labels must be consulted before choosing to treat your own clothing. Unlike repellents, if the tick remains in contact long enough with the treated clothing, it can die or suffer ill-effect.
So what do you do if you find an attached tick? First, please avoid folk-remedies for removing ticks. The best strategy is to use tweezers or a tick-removal tool to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible near its mouthparts. Pull straight outward with steady even force. The primary goal is to remove the tick as soon as possible. The longer it remains attached, the higher the risk of disease transmission. After removal, clean and disinfect the site and SAVE THE TICK! Your doctor may wish to have it identified or tested.
The Extension Office in your county is an excellent resource for tick and insect identification. During this period of social distancing, physical Extension Offices are closed at the time of this posting. HOWEVER! We are still here for you! Extension Educators are working virtually and are able to answer your questions or identify insects and ticks by photo sent to your county educator's email, sent to one of the writers on BYGL, or through ASK AN EXPERT at http://extension.osu.edu/ask-an-expert.
For more information on these and other ticks, check out the OSU Factsheet on ticks.
TICKENCOUNTER.ORG through the University of Rhode Island is the ultimate resource for all things ticks including detailed photos of all stages of tick development. Check them out!
As with any tick bite, contact your medical provider to discuss concerns, whether treatment is necessary or other plan of action. Extension Educators are not medical professionals and are not able to discuss treatment or disease management related to ticks or other arthropod-vectored diseases.