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SCIENTIFIC NAME: Order Ixodida, families Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks)  (more information on Wikipedia)


SIZE: Adult—1/16" to 1/4"


IDENTIFICATION: Ticks are not insects. They have eight legs and are related instead to mites, spiders, and scorpions. Two families--hard ticks and soft ticks. Tough, leathery, pitted skin and no apparent head. Only one body region. No antennae.



BIOLOGY AND LIFE CYCLE: Eggs, larvae, nymphs, adults. Ticks attach firmly to host and may go unnoticed for long periods. High reproductive rates. Ticks live up high--four or five feet above the ground in bushes, on trunks of trees, and on sides of buildings. Ticks mate on animals, then fall off and lay 1,000 to 6,000 eggs in the soil and in cracks and crevices. Eggs hatch in nineteen to sixty days, and the larval ticks attach themselves to a host animal, feed for three to six days, fall off, molt into the nymph stage, then go back to the host to engorge again. Some tick adults can live over 500 days without a meal.


HABITAT: Tall grass and weeds. Pastures and rangeland. Woodlands and shrubbery. Incomplete metamorphosis.


FEEDING HABITS: Suck blood of warm-blooded animals.


ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE: Vectors of several diseases.


NATURAL CONTROL: Cut brush and weeds. Wear protective clothing. Keep interiors well cleaned and vacuumed, fill cracks with steel wool or copper mesh. Ticks have few natural enemies other than fire ants.


ORGANIC CONTROL: Dust with diatomaceous earth during dry weather for severe infestations. Keep out mice. Stock firewood away from the house. Locate bird feeders away from the house. Spray with plant oil products. You can also use the flea control treatment, with one change: Ticks like to camp out up high and be ready to jump off on passing animals for a little blood meal. Spray the shrubs, tree trunks, sides of buildings, etc. with one of the fire ant drench mixtures containing compost tea, molasses and orange oil. Apply beneficial nematodes. 


INSIGHT: Research has shown that beneficial nematodes are effective in controlling ticks. Steinernema nematodes wriggle into the body cavities of engorged female ticks. Another, Heterohabditis, uses a single sharp tooth to gnaw through the tick's outer covering. The nematodes release other microbes (fungi and bacteria) that actually do the killing.





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