Ticks act as external parasites, feasting on the blood of humans, wildlife, and domestic creatures. These pests may pose severe health threats to humans and animals alike. This is because have the capacity to carry and spread an extensive array of diseases. In Florida, you will most commonly encounter three species of ticks: the blacklegged tick (or deer tick), the brown dog tick, the gulf coast tick, the lone star tick, and the American dog tick.
Common Ticks Found in Florida
In Florida, we can categorize ticks into three main families: Nuttalliellidae, soft ticks (Argasidae), and hard ticks (Ixodidae). Unlike soft ticks, which are mainly located in the western United States, hard ticks are recognized as the sole pest family for ticks in Florida.
You can commonly find five ticks throughout Florida in areas such as Naples, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and surrounding areas.
American Dog Ticks
Before feeding, American dog ticks are brownish-tan with yellow or white marbled designs. However, after a meal, their color changes to a olive green or grayish-blue tone. They’re oval but become round when engorged.
Easily identifiable, the American dog tick is one of Florida’s largest ticks. Adults are typically brown with white markings.
These ticks do attach to dogs; hence, it is vital to check your dog after walks in forested or grassy areas.
Blacklegged ticks (aka deer ticks) are a small species, dark orange with distinctively darker legs. Adults are about 1/8th of an inch before a meal and grow larger after feeding.
Often referred to as the deer tick, the blacklegged tick prefers different hosts at various life stages. As a vector for Lyme disease, this tick poses a significant health risk.
Active from October to May, adult blacklegged ticks commonly seek hosts in wooded areas or along forest edges.
Brown Dog Tick
Brown dog ticks are simple in appearance with brown bodies and shields.
Common in cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the brown dog tick is unique as an indoor pest in Florida. It often attaches to dogs and can be found in kennels, carrying diseases like Ehrlichia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Gulf Coast Tick
Adult males are easily distinguishable by ornate markings on their red bodies and exhibit clean, white lines in a web-like formation. Females, on the other hand, have bright, white markings on their dorsal shield.
The Gulf Coast tick, found on both the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, mainly carries heartwater, a severe illness in cattle. It prefers attaching to cattle and deer rather than humans.
Lone Star Tick
The unique golden brown color and the white spot on the adult females’ backs give the lone star tick its name. This tick feeds at all stages of its lifecycle.
The lone star tick transmits ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever and inhabits various habitats, including wooded and open grassy areas. Keep a sharp eye out for these ticks, as they’re among the easier ones to spot.
What Do Ticks In Florida Look Like?
Many people believe that ticks are insects, but this is not the case. Instead, ticks are tiny arachnids, similar to spiders and scorpions, and belong to the superorder Parasitiformes. They possess eight legs, just like spiders (except as larvae, when they have six). Hard ticks have a scutum on their backs, distinguishing them from soft ticks, which lack a scutum.
Ticks vary in size, but they are all incredibly small. After being in wooded, forested, or grassy areas where you often find ticks, you must examine your body closely for any signs of them. Ticks are usually brown, but there are exceptions, such as the lone star and American dog ticks, which have white markings on their backs.
Their ability to attach themselves to hosts comes from their small size and flat bodies. The combination of spines, claws, and mouthparts enables them to pierce the host and draw blood. As they feed, their bodies start to swell from the blood.
Fun fact: Ticks have their version of a brain, called a synganglion. They also do not have lungs but have spiracles (similar to cockroaches) that absorb oxygen.
Are Ticks Dangerous?
Yes, people consider ticks dangerous due to the many diseases they can spread to both humans and animals. The Florida Department of Health has identified that the blacklegged tick spreads Lyme disease and babesiosis. In contrast, the American dog tick can spread Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Brown dog ticks don’t often cause health problems in humans. However, the University of Florida has an article stating that they can transmit diseases to dogs. The diseases include canine babesia and canine ehrlichiosis.
Do Ticks Bite?
Ticks need to puncture the host’s skin to access and consume the blood; thus, they do indeed bite. Most tick bites don’t cause pain but can result in redness and swelling on the skin. Some might even evolve into sores.
Specialized mouthparts enable ticks to latch onto and pierce the skin, allowing them to insert a tube to extract blood. To ensure a pain-free experience for the host during feeding, ticks emit saliva that has anesthetic characteristics.
Why Do Ticks Bite?
Though ticks may seem to be looking for a ride, they have a parasitic relationship with various hosts, including humans, birds, deer, rodents, dogs, and other mammals. They feed on blood and require three different hosts throughout their lives.
The term used to describe a tick’s search for its host is “questing.” Here are the questing options:
- Ambush a host. To ambush a host, a tick will climb onto rocks, extend its front legs, and wait for a host. When the host is near, the tick will jump and attach itself.
- Hunt for a host. To hunt for a host, a tick will pursue the host until it finds a way to attach itself.
As a tick, the ideal time to quest is during high humidity, warm temperatures, and rain, as these conditions boost humidity. More ticks and few predators also enhance the questing conditions.
If you find a tick on your body, remove it quickly. It takes about 24-48 hours for a tick to transmit bacteria, so a thorough check after outdoor activities is essential.
How to Remove a Tick
To remove a tick, use tweezers and grab it as close to your skin as possible, pulling straight back. Aim for the head, not the abdomen. Avoid remedies like heat, Vaseline, or oils, which can cause the same problems.
A swollen belly on a tick indicates prolonged feeding. If a tick bites you, closely monitor the bite site. If you develop symptoms like a rash, a fever over 102 degrees, or aches, consult a doctor immediately.
How To Prevent Ticks In Florida
The most effective way to avoid ticks on your body (although challenging in Miami) is to wear appropriate protective clothing. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants will keep ticks at bay.
Should you have boots, wear them with the pants tucked in for additional protection.
To avert overheating in high temperatures, ensure that the clothing is loosely fitted and of a light hue.
Repellents can be used to keep various types of ticks, including Gulf Coast ticks, American dog ticks, brown dog ticks, lone star ticks, and black-legged dog ticks, away from you, your family, and pets.
Lemon eucalyptus oil is an eco-friendly option that you can also use on ticks.
Keep in mind that this method does not offer long-lasting protection, so frequent reapplication is necessary.
How are ticks introduced?
Rodents and various wildlife creatures are frequently responsible for introducing ticks into different areas. They inhabit tall grass, dense vegetation, and wooded areas, awaiting a new host.
People and pets introduce ticks as well. If you explore grassy and wooded areas, you risk bringing them home.
Tips for Tick Prevention
To deter ticks from infesting your home, family, and pets, consider the following strategies:
- Move wooded areas away from your property line; establish a barrier between wooded areas and your lawn with stone or rocks.
- Maintain a neatly trimmed lawn and prune any overgrown bushes.
- Eliminate bird feeders that might attract wild animals.
- Under your pet’s veterinarian’s guidance, ensure that you give them tick prevention medication that lasts year-round.
- Apply bug spray to fend off ticks when spending time outdoors.
- When hiking or biking, avoid tall grasses and thick vegetation.
Despite your diligence, ticks may still pose a threat outdoors. Before entering your home, it’s vital to thoroughly examine yourself, pets, and other family members for any presence of ticks.
How To Protect Your Pet From Ticks In Florida
- Maintain your lawn: Taking care of your lawn may surprise you with its effectiveness in diminishing the tick population in your yard. The lawn care specialists at On Demand Pest Control have pet-friendly products and the expertise to manage your trees, lawn, and bushes.
- Inspect your dogs: After letting them roam in potentially tick-infested areas. Check between the toes, in the ears, around the legs and neck, and deep within the fur.
- If you find a tick, remove it immediately and completely.
- Keep your dogs indoors.
- Allow your dog(s) outside for periodic walks and playtime, but avoid potentially infested areas during tick season. If unavoidable, conduct a thorough tick check afterward or utilize tick medication.
Professional Tick Control Throughout Southeast and Southwest Florida
Concerned about ticks in Florida invading your home or transmitting serious illnesses? On Demand Pest Control offers professional lawn care treatments to transform your home into a tropical paradise.
If ticks have infested your home, we provide pest control treatments to eradicate them.
At On Demand Pest Control, our lawn care products are both pet-friendly and eco-friendly, protecting your family and pets from various types of ticks, including black-legged ticks, Gulf Coast ticks, lone star ticks, American dog ticks, and brown dog ticks.
Contact us for more details on our tick control options, or request your free quote today!