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The American Dog Tick is the largest of the eastern wood ticks, and the one you are most likely to see. Ticks are arachnids and, like their spider cousins, have eight legs.
American Dog Tick
The 8-legged adult male and female D. variabilis ticks are typically brown to reddish-brown in color with gray/silver markings on their scutum . The female will vary in size depending on whether or not it has blood fed. Unfed females are typically 5 mm long and are slightly larger than males, which are about 3.6 mm long. Females can be distinguished by a short or small dorsal scutum, right behind the mouthparts while the male scutum covers the majority of its dorsal surface. Blood-fed females can enlarge up to 15 mm long and 10 mm wide.
Ticks are parasites, and they must find a mammal host for blood. They use their claws to grab onto a host and then dig under the skin with their mouthparts. Their mouth lets out a chemical, which is an anesthesia, to keep the host from knowing itâ€™s there. The tick can then bury its head in the hostâ€™s flesh and drink as much blood as it wants.
Life Cycle:American Dog Tick develops from the egg stage, to the 6-legged larva, to the 8-legged nymph, and finally to the adult. The cycle requires a blood meal before progression from larva to nymph, from nymph to adult and by the adult for egg production. This cycle also requires three different hosts and requires at least 54 days to complete, but can take up to two years depending on the host availability, host location and the temperature.
After five to 14 days of blood feeding, a fully engorged female D. variabilis drops from the host. She digests the blood meal and develops her egg clutch over the next four to 10 days. She then lays anywhere from 4,000 to 6,500 eggs on the ground . About 26 to 40 days later, depending on the temperature, the eggs hatch into larvae.
American Dog Tick Life Cycle
After hatching, larvae remain on the ground or climb growing vegetation where they wait for small mammals, such as mice, to serve as hosts for their first blood meal. This host location behavior is called questing. Under favorable conditions, larvae can survive up to 11 months without feeding. After contacting and attaching to a host, larvae require from two to 14 days to complete blood feeding. After feeding, larvae detach from their host and fall to the ground where they digest their blood meal and molt into the nymphal stage. This process can take as little as a week, although this period is often prolonged.
Nymphs can survive six months without a blood meal. After successfully questing for their second host, which is normally a slightly larger mammal (such as a raccoon or opossum), the nymphs will blood feed over a three to 10-day period. After engorging, they fall off the host, digest their blood meal and molt into an adult. This process can take anywhere from three weeks to several months. Adults can survive two years without feeding, but readily feed on dogs or other larger animals when available.
Adult American dog ticks overwinter in the soil and are most active from around mid-April to early September. Larvae are active from about March through July and nymphs are usually found from June to early September (Goddard 1996). In northern areas, such as Massachusetts and Nova Scotia, adults appear from April to August with a peak in May and June. In central latitudes of the U.S., such as Virginia, adults are found to be active from April to September/October with peaks in May and July. In Ohio, adult activity occurred between April and September with a peak in May/June and a second smaller peak in August/September.
American Dog Tick
Management :American dog tick occurs primarily in wooded, shrubby and long-grass areas. However, it is possible for residential areas to support populations of this tick. Shrubs, weeds, tall grass, clutter and debris on the property attracts the rodents that are hosts for immature ticks. By maintaining grass short, removing possible rodent harborages, and sealing cracks and crevices in and around the property one can directly reduce or prevent local tick populations. Keeping grass and weeds cut short decreases humidity, which helps kill ticks or makes an area undesirable for ticks and rodents.
Diesease: American dog ticks are capable of transmitting the microorganisms that cause tularemia (rabbit fever) and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in humans.
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