Jun 21

The Science of Ticks

It’s no secret that the spread of ticks, and unfortunately the spread of tick-borne diseases like Lyme, is on the rise in the US. Today we’re taking a look at the biology of ticks and how they make a meal out of your blood.

Ticks are actually arachnids and they suck… literally. Here are some scientific facts from a real medical entomologist, Dr. Neeta Pardanani Connally. This information comes from the podcast “ologies” which is a great educational resource. It tackles a variety of topics, but as a heads up, if you do plan on listening, the podcast is not censored so occasionally there is strong language. So be careful around kiddos. To listen to this episode in its entirety, CLICK HERE.

Here are some things you may not actually know about our unwanted friends:

  • Ticks actually start out with six legs but gain the other two after their first (bleh…) blood meal. That’s when they molt into the nymph stage, during that part of their life and through adulthood they have eight legs.
  • They are actually arachnids, not an insect… so if you didn’t like ticks before, finding out they’re cousins with spiders probably won’t win you over.
  • The deer tick is incredibly hardy. It can live under the snow and through extreme temperatures. Its lifespan can be up to TWO YEARS.
  • Within a tick’s saliva are special enzymes that help it go undetected longer while feeding. Additionally, the saliva works as a kind of cement that helps the tick stick in its target.
  • Some young ticks can be the size of a poppy seed. Want proof? Here’s the CDC traumatizing people who love muffins on Twitter…

Tips to keep ticks at bay:

  • For some fun videos about protecting yourself in your own backyard, check out these fun videos: SPRAY SAFE, PLAY SAFE
  • There’s a lot of supposed tips and tricks for removing ticks, but according to Dr. Connally those aren’t as effective as the myths lead you to believe. Instead, use a pair of the pointiest tweezers to clamp down as close to the skin as possible and pull.
  • Yes, it’s important to get as much of the tick out as possible, but if part of the tick’s feeding tube accidentally gets stuck in it’s not necessarily as bad as you’ve been led to believe. Most of the time it will come out on its own, like a splinter.
  • The medical community has tried to create a vaccine for Lyme, in fact, there even was one on the market briefly. That vaccine has been removed however and nothing has been brought out to replace it yet. So the best offense is a good defense, protect yourself with sprays, showering after being outdoors, or having someone check you for ticks.

It is extremely important to protect your pets all year, even in the winter! Flea and Tick medication are great ways to protect your pooch!

Thanks for reading!
Colin Carlton,
Ruffin’ Wranglers Manager