There are four common ticks in Pennsylvania. They are the American dog tick, the blacklegged tick, the Lone Star tick, and the groundhog tick. While all ticks can spread diseases from host animals to humans by a process called zoonoses, each of them have certain diseases they are vectors for. The two diseases that present the greatest danger to Pennsylvania residents are Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever which are spread by the blacklegged tick and the American dog tick, respectively.
 
The prevention of tick borne-diseases begins with detection and identification. It is important to check for ticks on yourself and your pets whenever you’ve spent time outdoors, especially if you've been in tall grass, woodland areas, or near moist vegetation. If you find a tick, use a tick removal tool or tweezers to pinch the tick near the head and pull straight away from your skin. Finding and removing a tick early can prevent the transmission of tick-borne diseases as some of these illnesses can take up to 48 hours to transfer from an infected tick.

Identification

  • American dog ticks (Dermacentor variabilis) are brown with whitish-gray coloration on their backs, behind their heads. When not engorged with blood, these ticks are about 3/16 of an inch long.

  • Blacklegged ticks (Ixodes scapularis) are an orangish brown color with dark-colored legs, hence their name. These ticks are slightly smaller than American dog ticks, measuring only 1/8 of an inch.

  • Lone Star ticks (Amblyomma americanum) are recognizable by the tiny white dot in the center of their reddish-brown colored backs and are 1/6 to 1/4 of an inch in length.

  • Groundhog ticks (Ixodes cookei) range in color from tan to reddish-brown and are about 1/8 of an inch long.

  • When engorged, all of these ticks swell and become much larger. They will also appear gray or bluish-gray color when in this state.

Seed Ticks

When ticks first hatch, they can be extremely small. In fact, as many as 100 seed ticks can fit on a single field mouse or bird. In this stage, these ticks do not transmit diseases. You can tell a seed tick by its six legs. Once it molts, the tick will become an eight-legged nymph. It is when they leave their first host to find another that these pests can become dangerous. For this reason, it is vital to address mice, rat, bat, and bird infestations quickly.

Vectors

  • American dog ticks are a prime vector for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a serious illness that manifests symptoms 2-14 days after infection. Symptoms of this disease may include fever, chills, headache, muscle and abdominal aches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. The ticks are also known to spread tularemia, which can lead to tick paralysis.

  • Blacklegged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are a prime vector for Lyme disease, a tick-borne disease that can lead to lifelong medical issues. They call this disease the Great Imitator because its symptoms mimic the symptoms of other serious diseases such as fibromyalgia, ALS, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. This disease is often associated with a bullseye rash. 

  • The most noteworthy illness spread by Lone Star ticks in Pennsylvania is Rocky Mountain spotted fever, but they are also linked to tularemia. In addition, new evidence has emerged that these ticks are connected to a rare meat allergy that has severe symptoms.

As of this writing, groundhog ticks are not known vectors for any zoonoses.

Tick Bite Prevention

The best way to avoid tick bites is to not have ticks around. Makes sense, doesn't it? And the best way to keep ticks away is to invest in Mosquito & Tick Defense from Witt Pest Management. While it isn’t possible to make a yard completely tick-free, we can help to drastically reduce the number of ticks found around your home and reduce the likelihood of you, your kids, or your pets carrying these dangerous pests into your home. Learn more about our Mosquito & Tick Defense here!
 

If you have more questions about ticks or you'd like to reach out to us to schedule an inspection of your property, contact us at Witt Pest Management and we'll get you scheduled for a consultation with one of our experienced pest control professionals. Get started by going here!