Learn about Utah Ticks
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Ticks are tiny spider-like creatures, measuring between 0.2 to 0.4 inches long, depending on their age and species. They feed by piercing the skin of their host and feeding on blood, which can cause several harmful health effects in both animals and humans. Ticks, like other arachnids, have eight legs (four pairs). They are not insects – they are in a separate class from insects called Arachnida. This puts ticks closer to spiders than insects, although ticks don’t make webs like spiders.
There are two species of ticks found in Utah. The American Dog Tick is found throughout the state but is more common in western Utah. This tick is reddish-brown with white markings on its back. Adults are about 1/8-inch-long, while nymphs (immature stage) are about 1/16-inch long. The American Dog Tick is most active in the spring and early summer. The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is found in northern and eastern Utah. This tick has a dark brown cap and is about 1/4 inch long when fully mature. The Rocky Mountain Wood Tick is most active in the fall.
The type of tick is influenced by where it prefers to live. Ticks live in various habitats, including wooded areas and tall grasses. Some ticks climb nearby vegetation and wait for an unsuspecting host to brush against a plant or blade of grass. While some ticks are active year-round, most are more active during the spring and summer months when the temperature is warm enough to become mobile.
Ticks feed on the blood of mammals (including humans), birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. They feed by attaching themselves to their host, piercing the skin, and sucking blood through their mouthparts. Female ticks feed more than males because they need to consume enough blood to produce eggs.
Tick Life Cycle & Reproduction
The life cycle depends on the species, but most follow similar patterns. Many ticks go through four stages during their lives: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. Each stage requires a blood meal.
After hatching from eggs, ticks must eat blood at every stage to survive. Larvae feed once and then drop off the host. After molting into the nymphal stage, they again seek a host and take another blood meal.
Nymphs typically feed in spring or early summer and then molt into adults. In late fall or early winter, adult females seek hosts and feed on blood until they are engorged with blood and then drop off to lay eggs in the spring.
Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of diseases affecting humans. They are small, eight-legged creatures that feed on the blood of mammals (including Humans), birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are external parasites living by feeding on the blood of animals. Since they must consume blood at each life stage to survive, they can easily transmit disease organisms to hosts.
Since ticks cannot fly or jump, they climb tall grasses and shrubs to wait for a host—the tick senses when an animal passes by detecting exhaled carbon dioxide or body odors. Then the tick uses its front legs to grab onto the host and sticks its head into the skin, feeding on the host’s blood for several days. After feeding, ticks drop off and lay their eggs in a protected place.
Ticks carry germs that cause human diseases such as Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF). Ticks may also carry other diseases transmitted to humans, such as tularemia (rabbit fever), Colorado tick fever, human ehrlichiosis, human babesiosis (malaria-like illness), Q fever, and Powassan encephalitis.