It can be an outdoors-lover’s nightmare: You feel an itch on your skin or that of a loved one and find an odd bump. After a quick peek, you know the culprit. A tick has hopped on in search of a meal! Or maybe you find some of the small creatures crawling about in the woods during a family hike. Either way, this is never a welcome discovery.
Oklahoma is home to a variety of ticks. Though they are all vector arthropods, their appearance, behaviors and preferred habitat vary. Each poses a threat to different animals or people based on location, some worse than others. If you come across ticks around your property, contact a pest professional for more information specific to your infestation.
Soft Ticks Versus Hard Ticks
The first two species of tick, the fowl tick and the spinose ear tick, are considered soft ticks. They are called soft ticks because they lack the hard shell around their bodies that hard ticks have. Generally, soft ticks search for hosts at night, while hard ticks are more likely to look for a host during the daytime. Additionally, soft ticks prefer to live in animal burrows, dens, caves and broken down human dwellings. On the other hand, hard ticks prefer brushy, wooded or weedy areas, much like the areas along hiking trails.
For these reasons, soft ticks are usually less of a threat to humans. However, they are still important to learn about.
This variety, also known as the “blue bug” often targets poultry. All stages of this type of tick—larval nymphal and adult—take the blood of the same kind of host, with the adults drinking the poultry’s blood at night and then leaving to take shelter in hidden places in the daytime. Adult fowl ticks will burrow into cracks and under debris.
These crevices become a nursery for the ticks’ eggs, and once they hatch, the larvae go back to the chickens to eat. It can take four to five days for this stage to finish feeding. At that point, the ticks leave their hosts and molt to their nymphal stage. This version of the tick eats at night, and they feed a lot before molding into the adult stage. This entire process takes 45 days or so but they are hardy. Fowl ticks can live for years without feeding.
Spinose Ear Tick
Oklahoma has a lot of cattle and horses, and this type of tick is commonly found around these animals as well as other domestic and wild ones in the state. Humans aren’t immune from them, either.
The tick gets its name from where it likes to burrow: the host’s ear canals. If enough of them nest in a host, they can seriously irritate and inflame the ear and cause the animal to go deaf. The infection can progress to a secondary bacterial one as well, with tissue coming off and making its way into the host’s ear canal. In cows, this can disfigure their ears in a way that makes moving their head uncomfortable.
If you come across this type of tick, you should know that only the larval and nymphal stage feed on the hosts. You can tell if the tick is a nymph by the peanut body shape and the visible spines.
The next four species of ticks are all considered hard ticks.
You might know this particular tick as a “deer tick” that targets Oklahoma livestock and wildlife. It is dangerous to its hosts, transmitting a variety of diseases.
The black-legged tick can bring humans granulocytic anaplasmosis (HGA) and Lyme disease. Certain pathogens, such as the one that causes spotted fever, can also be transmitted to rodents and deer, and Lyme disease can also affect dogs, cattle and rodents. Fortunately, this tick isn’t known to pass on Lyme disease in Oklahoma because the larval ticks don’t eat from mice, which pass on that bacteria in other areas.
This tick can do a lot of damage, however, so you will want to get a positive identification if you find one of these on yourself, a loved one or a beloved pet! Reach out to a professional right away for pest control options. They can help confirm you have a tick bite not a bite from a mosquito or another pest.
Adult black-legged ticks are generally found in the area from late September through March or April, with the early fall being when you most likely will find them on deer and cattle.
This species varies greatly in its appearance but it is the only one-host tick in Oklahoma. It spends its entire life on just one host, usually deer or cattle. If an animal has many of these ticks, it can die from blood loss if not treated.
The larval stage is active in October, and nymphs and adults are more active late fall through early spring. The winter tick is very large when engorged and therefore easily seen on animals.
American Dog Tick
This common tick prefers to feed on dogs and other small animals, either wild or domestic. You can identify this pest by the white, gray and silver spots scattered over its brown and black body. Sometimes the adults infest horses and cattle but usually don’t cause problems. They also will feed on humans and live in wooded recreational areas that get a lot of use.
The American dog tick is the only known spreader of Rocky Mountain spotted fever in Oklahoma. It can also spread disease to cows, cats, dogs and can paralyze dogs and people.
Brown Dog Tick
The brown dog tick is common in Oklahoma and lives in many other areas as well. Usually, they feed on dogs, but if the dogs are close to humans, the ticks will bite them, too. All three states feed on dogs.
You will often find these ticks in dogs’ ears and between their toes. The larvae and nymphs are usually in long hair on the back of dogs’ necks and like to climb so can be found in roofs of kennels or ceilings of porches. They carry a variety of pathogens.
Lone Star Tick
Sure, this tick is named after a little state to the south, but people enjoying Oklahoma’s wide open spaces come across them plenty. So do livestock and wildlife. These pests feed on humans in the larvae, nymph and adult stages. The larval ticks like to go out in a group and have been known to infest more than 40 different kinds of birds!
You can distinguish a Lone Star tick by the large white spot near the head on the female and white markings around the posterior of the male. They also have a longer, more pronounced mouth area than other ticks found in Oklahoma.
This tick is at its most active from early spring to late fall and is a public health nuisance because it can transmit several illnesses to humans. The female can lay a huge number of eggs, anywhere from 9,000 to 12,000.
Gulf Coast Tick
This variety has been growing in numbers in the state over the past 20 years or so and though the larva and nymph stages stick to birds or small rodents, the adults branch out. This stage will feed on cattle and also dogs, horses, sheep, deer, coyotes and even humans can provide a snack.
Adults are in full force from early April to about mid-June and they like to attach to cows’ earls. When cattle are having a large infestation, their ears can get thick and curl into a condition called “gotch ear.” Humans and dogs can actually get something called tick paralysis from the Gulf Coast species!
Are Ticks Attracted To Certain Blood Types?
Though more research is needed for definitive proof, there is information in a study from the Czech Republic that indicates ticks might like one more than others.
The study tested castor bean ticks, found mainly in Europe, to see if they seemed to prefer type A, B, AB or O. The researchers kept track of which droplet the tick went toward after two minutes in a petri dish containing drops of each type. It seems type A was preferred by 36% of the ticks tested. Type B was the least popular, drawing just 15% of the ticks.
How To Get Rid of Ticks
If you aren’t sure whether your yard is hosting ticks, you can do what’s called a tick drag. Cut a square piece of fabric, about 5 inches square, and tie it to a stick about 18 inches long. Hold the pole and drag it across the tall grass or weeds in your yard. Ticks will attach to the swatch if they are living there. Or you can call in a licensed pest professional to provide the tick control for you.
Experts say ticks that carry Lyme disease don’t like hot, dry places, so let your grass grow to about 4 inches, then cut it back to 3 inches each time you mow. This lets your grass grow in a healthy way while still deterring ticks.
If your property contains or abuts a wooded area, add a 3-foot-wide barrier of mulch around your lawn’s perimeter. It is dry and gets hot, which ticks don’t like. It also reminds you and your family to be careful when crossing over into the woody space. Use the broad, dry type of mulch chips or bark for this. A lawn expert can recommend the best products and practices for your particular yard and take care of the lawn maintenance for you.
With a little investigation and prevention, you can keep your lawn and home free of these ticks that are not only a nuisance for your family and pets, but also carry the risk of disease. Contact a professional today to create your pest control plan. They can also help with distinguishing which types of Oklahoma mosquitoes are in our yard.
ABC Can Give You Peace of Mind
Finding even a single tick on your property can be alarming. For peace of mind when it comes to ticks, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our pest control professionals will create a custom pest treatment plan, so you can feel at ease. We can help with other arachnids too, like common spiders in Oklahoma.