Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Lone Star Ticks

Twelve years ago a new animal was added to the Blue Jay Barrens list. The Lone Star Tick, Amblyomma americanum, was a species I had read about, but had never before encountered. Shown above is a female of the species positioned on the edge of a leaf with forelegs extended, ready to snag a ride on anything that passes by.


Unlike the Wood Tick, which I’d been dealing with for decades, the Lone Star Tick proved to be highly aggressive and quick to bite. This male Lone Star Tick began attaching itself to the palm of my hand after only a few seconds. These ticks don’t waste time searching out a protected area for their attachment. Fortunately, I’m highly sensitive to the bite of the Lone Star Tick, feeling a sensation like a highly potent sweat bee sting, so I can find a remove the tick almost immediately.

It’s not just the adult Lone Star Ticks that seek out a human blood meal. All developmental stages from newly hatched to adult find humans to be a satisfactory host. The young ticks are so tiny they are almost impossible to see on the skin. In the photo above, there are over a dozen newly hatched ticks attached to my hand. I carry a small bottle of Purell hand sanitizer with me in the field to deal with these attacks of tiny ticks. The alcohol in Purell kills ticks of this size almost instantly. Most of the dead bodies can be wiped off of the skin, but there are always a few that are attached strongly enough that it takes a scrape of a fingernail to dislodge them.

Female Lone Star Ticks tend to place their egg clusters at the base of plant stalks. Upon hatching, the youngsters scamper up the stalk and wait for a likely creature to pass by. These clusters of young ticks tend to strike my leg just above the knee and quickly grab onto my pants. From here the young would begin searching out some bare skin to which they could attach, but these particular individuals are now dead. My standard attire when working in tick infested areas consists of socks, long pants, longsleeved shirt, and hat, all permethrin treated. This is a highly effective deterrent to Lone Star Ticks.

A standard penny for scale illustrates the diminutive size of the hatchlings.

The newly hatched tick has only six legs and is referred to as a larva. The future stages of growth are called nymphs until the final adult stage is reached. The Lone Star Ticks are fascinating animals, but I wish they weren’t so frequently available for study.


1 comment:

  1. Generally ticks this size jump on and colonize Western Fence Lizrds and some others where I come from in Southern California. The blood of these lizards sanitize and destroy many of the nasty diseases they carry like Lyme Disease. Wonder if the same is experienced with where you are located.