Ticks in Philadelphia: Please Protect Yourself

Blog by interns Will Meade and Kamille

There are over 25 species of ticks in the state of Pennsylvania. Some are more commonly found than others and these include the lone star tick, the American dog tick, the groundhog tick and the blacklegged tick. The non-adult American dog tick is commonly located on rodents like meadow mice. 

The blacklegged tick’s larvae use birds as food. Depending on the tick, adults can travel on creatures such as opossum, deer and squirrels. Different ticks have the potential to carry different diseases that include Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. The blacklegged tick takes about 24 hours of being on a host to be able to give off the cause of Lyme disease. Fever and nausea are symptoms of Lyme disease (1). 

Birds, ants and spiders are occasional predators of ticks, and nematodes are considered as a form of tick control (2). Beetles, fungi and rodents also significantly control the tick population (3).

While there are many different species of ticks, there are three kinds that are found in the Philadelphia region: black-legged, lone star, and American dog tick.

Adult deer tick.jpg
Adult female deer/black-legged tick

The black-legged tick is the smallest out of the three and is about the size of a poppy seed, making it difficult to spot. The males are primarily brown, while the females have a more distinct red and brown color. These ticks are also the only species that can transmit Lyme disease to human beings.

Amblyomma americanum tick.jpg
Lone star/Northeastern water tick

The lone star tick can transmit Tularemia, a rash-producing disease that can often be confused with Lyme disease. The lone star ticks are all brown but the females have a distinct white marking on their back.

The largest of these three is the American dog tick, which can grow up to half an inch when fully engorged, and they have a unique oval shape. They can be identified with multiple white markings around their bodies. While they do not transmit Lyme disease, they are still known to carry Tularemia and Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Adult female American dog tick

No matter what species of tick you happen to stumble upon, there are measures that can be taken to help protect yourself! While ticks are a serious threat to our well-being, there are many ways that will help prevent a tick from making you their next meal! 

First, make sure you stay on the trails. Ticks thrive in tall grass and wooded areas where it is easier for them to attach themselves to you. Staying on our trails will help you avoid them all together. 

The next step is wearing proper clothing for your adventure; wearing pants and high socks can help prevent ticks from crawling on your legs. For an extra layer of protection, you can tuck your pants into your socks as well. Long-sleeves will also help protect your arms from brushing up against a tick and will better decrease the chances of your skin encountering a tick. 

When coming home from a walk or hike, it is crucial that you give yourself and any furry companions you brought along a proper tick check. 

Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed so take your time as you examine yourself to catch sight of them. The CDC recommends checking under the arms, in and around the ears, inside the belly button, back of the knees, in and around the hair, between the legs and around the waist. While this may seem like a bit much, ticks like to climb and hide in dark places where they are away from your immediate eyesight. They also do this to not be brushed off, killed, or removed while feeding on you or someone else. 

However, after all these precautions, you may still find a tick on you and that is okay because there are multiple ways to safely remove them.

Removing a tick is quite simple but must be done properly to remove the whole organism from your skin. Grab a pair of tweezers and put them as close as you can to your skin while grabbing the tick. 

Next, pull upward with even pressure. Do not twist the tick because that can lead to its mouth still being stuck on you. 

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with alcohol, soap and water. Properly dispose of the tick by either dropping it in alcohol, flushing it down the toilet or placing it in a sealed bag and taping the opening shut. 

TTF hopes this piece has educated our readers on info that they might’ve not known about Philadelphia ticks and how to properly deal with them if an encounter occurs. 

Sources:

  1. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Entomology: FOUR COMMON TICKS OF PENNSYLVANIA – Tick-borne Diseases and Prevention, Tick Distributions, Life Histories and Control
  2. University of Maine, Cooperative Extension: Tick Lab
  3.  National Library of Medicine, Pathogens and predators of ticks and their potential in biological control
  4. CDC, Preventing tick bites
  5. Fred Stine, Delaware Riverkeeper Network

Spanish Resources:

Prevention: Cómo prevenir las picaduras de garrapatas 

Pregnant Women: El embarazo y la enfermedad de Lyme

For Parents: Los niños y la enfermedad de Lyme 

Symptoms: Síntomas de la Enfermedad de Lyme

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