TICK CONTROL & TREATMENTS
IDENTIFICATION, BIOLOGY & BEHAVIOUR
This is a three-host tick – each development stage feeds on a different host. A tiny larva has six legs. It feeds on rodents such as the meadow vole and white-footed mouse for 3 to 6 days, then drops from the host. After about a week, it casts off its skin to become an eight-legged nymph. The nymph feeds for a similar length of time on another small mammal, then drops to the ground, where, after 2 to 3 weeks, it becomes an eight-legged adult. Adults prefer larger mammals, including dogs and humans. The male (see figure) mates with the feeding female after his brief bloodmeal and does not become distended with blood. The female feeds for 7 to 10 days, drops to the ground, and after several days lays thousands of eggs. The female usually dies shortly after the eggs begin to hatch. Adults are most abundant from mid-April to mid-July. American dog ticks prefer overgrown vacant lots, waste farm fields, weedy roadsides, and edges of paths and hiking trails. They wait on grass and weeds for a suitable host to brush against the vegetation. Once on the host, they crawl upward, seeking a place to attach and take a bloodmeal.
- Stay out of weedy, tick-infested areas
- Make frequent personal inspections
- Examine children at least twice daily paying special attention to the head and neck.
- Check clothes for crawling ticks
- Keep dogs tied or penned in a mowed area as they may bring ticks into the home or yard
- Check pets daily, if ticks are found, follow tick removal instructions
- If exposure to a tick-infested area is unavoidable, tuck pant cuffs into socks or boots. Wearing light-coloured clothing makes it easier to find crawling ticks
If a tick should become attached to you or your pet, remove it as soon as possible. Prompt removal reduces the chance of infection by Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) and Lyme Disease (LD).
- Shield your fingers with a paper towel, use tweezers or wear rubber gloves. Grasp the tick close to the skin, and with steady pressure, pull straight out.
- Do not twist or jerk the tick, as mouthparts may be left in the skin. Take care not to crush or puncture the tick during removal.
- Use of a hot match or cigarette to remove a tick is NOT recommended as this may cause the tick to burst. Spotted fever may be acquired from infected tick body fluids that come in contact with broken skin, the mouth, or eyes.
- Avoid touching ticks with bare hands. Tick secretions can be infectious. Spotted fever can be acquired through self-inoculation into a small scratch or cut.
- After removing a tick, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash hands with soap and water.
- Ticks can be safely disposed of by placing them in a container of oil or alcohol, sticking them to tape, or flushing them in the toilet.
Symptoms appear 3 to 12 days after tick contact. There is a sudden onset of symptoms that include fever, headache, and aching muscles. A rash usually develops on the wrists and ankles on the second or third day of fever. The rash then spreads to involve the rest of the body, including the palms and soles. If you experience fever following tick contact, see your physician. It is important to receive the appropriate antibiotics as soon as possible if spotted fever is suspected. Most fatalities can be attributed to a delay in seeking medical attention.
Be alert for a red, ring-like lesion developing at the site of a tick bite within 2 to 32 days. Fever or a headache may also be present. Immediate antibiotic therapy reduces the risk of subsequent arthritic, neurologic, or cardiac complications developing days to years later.
The Deer tick, Ixodes dammini, was described as a new species and as the vector of Lyme disease, but recent reports have stated that both ticks are actually one in the same, and therefore should be called the “Black-legged tick.”
Two methods are recommended for tick control or management. First, weeds or grass should be mowed along with brush removal. This reduced cover raises the ground temperature and lowers the humidity so the ticks dry out and die. In addition, it eliminates suitable habitat for the immature (larval and nymphal) tick hosts, which includes small rodents such as the white-footed mouse and the meadow vole. Second, limit access of dogs and children to “tick” habitats. Dog control is important to reduce tick infestations. Dogs should be de-ticked daily by an adult. If chemical control is necessary, apply one of these materials outdoors according to label directions and safety precautions: chlorpyrifos (Dursban), diazinon, bendiocarb (Ficam D or G) or carbaryl (Sevin). Only the licensed, trained pesticide operator or applicator can apply restricted use materials such as fluvalinate (Mavrik, Yardex), bendiocarb (Ficam W), dioxathion (Deltic), propetamphos (Safrotin), cyfluthrin (Optem, Tempo), cypermethrin (Cynoff), deltamethrin (Suspend) or tralomethrin (Saga). Materials labelled for brown dog ticks indoors include residual crack and crevice injection treatment with Baygon, Diazinon, or activated pyrethrum in Silica Aerogel. Fogs include pyrethrum. On dogs, use pyrethrins, rotenone or d-Limonene. On cats, use rotenone or d-Limonene. Many veterinarians also maintain dipping vats for treating tick-infested dogs.
Repellents containing deet (Cutters, Detamide, Diethyl-toluamide, Off) or permethrin (Permanone) applied to the socks and pant legs are useful. Some use citronella oil (Avon Skin So Soft).
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