Size: 1/4 in.
Color: Brown to reddish-brown with yellow markings
Body Structure: Flattened body with eight legs
Characteristics: A female American dog tick will engorge herself with the blood of her mammalian host before falling to the ground to lay eggs. Sustaining herself for 3 weeks on the collected blood, she deposits tens of thousands of eggs in a secluded location then perishes. When eggs hatch, the larva go in search of food, often mice and vermin. After gorging themselves with blood, the larva fall from the host, molt and move to the nymph stage of development. Again, the nymphs will search for a new host and engorge themselves before molting and emerging as a mature adult. In ideal climate conditions, the process from gestation to adulthood takes about 3 months. Although, the development process can take up to 2 years.
Habitat/Behavior: Because American dog ticks require blood to survive in each stage of the life cycle, they can be found living in close proximity to mammalian hosts in moist, wooden environs. If American dog ticks make their way inside a home, they commonly can be found residing in potted plants or near pets’ bedding. Common to the Raleigh-Durham area, American dog ticks are known carriers of several diseases, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. When feeding on victims, they inject an anticoagulant that allows blood to stream freely and may simultaneously infect their victims with deadly bacteria. Incubation for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is about 1-2 weeks following a bite. Symptoms can include fever, chills, nausea, and a spotted rash.
Commonly Active: Early spring to late Autumn in the wild; indoors, American dog ticks can survive indefinitely.
Prevention/Treatment: If heading outdoors, spraying one’s clothing and shoes with a pest repellent spray containing DEET will help ward off American dog ticks. Also, checking pets regularly for ticks will help prevent indoor infestation. If an American dog tick is found on your body, use tweezers to remove it, tweezing it as closely to its mouthparts as possible. Do not squeeze the body of the tick, as it will cause the parasite to regurgitate, pushing pathogens into the wound. Because American dog ticks are prolific reproducers, do-it-yourself methods of tick control often are hit-or-miss. If you suspect an American dog tick infestation, contact a trusted pest control professional for a thorough home inspection and course of treatment.