Wood Tick Scientific Name: Dermacentor variabilis
Wood Tick Facts
Wood ticks are one of the most common and easily identifiable tick species. They are prevalent in almost any area that has grass or woodlands and may also be known as a Rocky Mountain wood tick due to their vast numbers in that localized area. They are common vectors for Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and as such, additional care should be taken when visiting this area. They are not known to pass on any other disease.
Wood ticks are a small, common species of tick with gray bodies. They can carry disease and produce an irritable bite but are much more likely to latch onto smaller hosts. They are not considered an aggressive species but will feed from humans on occasion. They prefer raccoons, deer and dogs or cats, which can all be found stray or in the wild and may come into your home by way of domestic animals.
Wood Tick Identification
Wood ticks are very similar in appearance to a deer tick and may be known to frequent similar grassy or woodland based habitats. The main difference between wood ticks and deer ticks are their respective sizes. Wood ticks are almost twice the size of deer ticks and this can be amplified after feeding or when females are ready to lay their eggs. Other than that, they share a very similar and distinct tick shape common to most ticks.
Wood ticks are a dark gray tick, with eight legs and a very small separate head which has a mouthpiece with sharp teeth capable of penetrating skin. They are most commonly found on domestic animals and can be easily identified. Deer ticks are usually only found on deer and other small game animals, another difference that distinguishes between the two species.
Wood Tick Habitat
Wood ticks thrive in almost any situation but prefer moderate to warm conditions in which tall grasses and thick woodlands are available. These are especially desirable during summer months when females lay their eggs. There are significant numbers of wood ticks in the Rocky Mountains, but there are also many other localized areas throughout America in which these creatures dwell. They are one of the most common ticks sighted.
Wood ticks do not usually stray from habitats that are taller than waist height and are not able to fly. They can jump very high, often using trees to leverage themselves. Wood ticks do not usually travel very far from conception to death, which makes them relatively easy to treat if found in or around the home. They are most likely to be brought inside by cats or dogs who attract them when wandering through thick grass or bushes.
Wood Tick Life Cycle
Wood ticks have three main life phases. They are an egg, a larvae and adulthood, in which sexual maturity is reached. Female wood ticks can produce staggering amount of eggs at one time, up to 3,000. This means large areas can quickly become infested. Males and females mate in the springtime, with most eggs hatching in the height of summer. This means there are plenty of small birds and mammals to feed on while the larvae compete their development phase.
During the larvae period, they undergo several insar periods which allow for rapid growth and the shedding of their hard shells. Once they have shed several time and eaten a sufficient amount of blood meals, they will become fully mature and can live for several years.
Unlike other ticks, the wood ticks can also lay their eggs within a host if the female feels it will be beneficial to her young. Both the male and female will remain present until the offspring are fully developed, though the males do not play any significant role after conception.
Wood Tick and Humans
Wood ticks are not an aggressive species and do not usually feed on humans. Like other ticks, they can survive for great lengths of time without a blood meal and will generally avoid human contact. They prefer deer, raccoons, and cats or domestic dogs. They can also latch onto other wild animals opportunistically but prefer smaller species.
If you are bitten by a wood tick, it is important to make sure the head and entire body is removed cleanly from the wound. This can cause further infection if not properly treated. Usually home treatment by a skilled person knows how to remove the tick with tweezers or flame will suffice; alternatively, a routine medical appointment can be arranged. Antibiotics may or may not be prescribed depending on the situation and wound.
Wood Tick Control
Avoiding long grasses and woodland areas, especially in summer months can help reduce your risk of contact dramatically.
Preventative treatments: Wood ticks are covered by most tick treatments for both pets and humans, and as such, pets should be treated regularly and members of the family should seek out sprays and repellents when planning to be in grassy or woodland areas.
Maintenance: General maintenance can help deter most wood ticks from your home or yard. Keep grasses low, tree branches trimmed away from the house and bushes should be pruned back.
Pesticides: There are certain pesticides which may be applicable with ticks but you should read the label implicitly to make sure, as many vary. You can check to see if you can use these treatments on plants and the outside of your home to help deter wood ticks from laying eggs in the area.
Pest control is not usually required for wood ticks and basic maintenance and treatments of pets will be enough to deter most from the area. If these do not work, you may want to consider a more aggressive plan of attack and monitor the area closely. Pest control agencies can also help apply chemicals if you are concerned.
Wood Tick Entomology
Wood ticks belong to the animalia kingdom and are classed as arachnids due to their eight legs. They also belong to the anthropoid phylum which is common to many other ticks, spiders and related insects. They have a subclass which is know as the acari and may also be known to be common to the super-family Parasitiformes due to their parasitic nature. Wood ticks are specifically considered Ixodida due to their hard shells and are one of two species which are soft shelled and are shelled.