In this informative article, Wildlife Informer highlights six types of ticks found in Florida that everyone should be aware of. These ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to humans through their bites. The article provides key details about each type of tick, including their scientific names, sizes, distributions, and the diseases they transmit. It also offers valuable tips on how to prevent tick bites, such as wearing protective clothing, using bug spray, and checking oneself and pets for ticks after being in infested areas. Furthermore, the article provides important steps for removing ticks if bitten and highlights the potential dangers associated with tick bites, particularly the risk of Lyme disease. Overall, this article serves as a comprehensive guide to understanding and dealing with ticks in Florida.
6 Types of Ticks in Florida (With Pictures)
Ticks are small, blood-sucking parasites that can transmit diseases to both humans and animals. In the United States, there are hundreds of tick species, but only a handful of them pose a threat to humans. Florida, known for its warm and humid climate, is home to several tick species that residents and visitors should be aware of. In this article, we will explore six types of ticks commonly found in Florida, their characteristics, and the diseases they can transmit.
1. American dog tick
Scientific name: Dermacentor variabilis Length: 5 mm (10 to 15 when engorged) Distribution: Most of California, eastern half of the U.S. Transmits: Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, tick paralysis
The American dog tick, also known as the wood tick, is one of the most common species found in Florida. They are brown in color with white or gray markings and have an oval-shaped body. The adult ticks are about 5mm in size when unfed and can grow up to 15mm when fully engorged. These ticks prefer feeding on domesticated dogs but can also attach to humans. They are most active from May to November and are known to transmit diseases such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Tularemia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, and tick paralysis.
2. Blacklegged tick
Scientific name: Ixodes scapularis Length: 3 mm (6 or 7 when engorged) Distribution: Eastern half of U.S. Transmits: Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, B. miyamotoi disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, Powassan virus
The blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick, is widespread throughout the eastern half of the United States. They are commonly found in wooded areas and can be identified by their small size and reddish-brown color. While their primary hosts are white-tailed deer, they can also bite humans. Blacklegged ticks are known to transmit various diseases, including Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, B. miyamotoi disease, ehrlichiosis, babesiosis, and Powassan virus.
3. Brown dog tick
Scientific name: Rhipicephalus sanguineus Length: 3 mm (up to 13 when engorged) Distribution: Throughout United States, all 50 states Transmits: Rocky Mountain spotted fever
The brown dog tick is a species that can be found throughout the United States, including Florida. They are known for their brownish color and their preference for dogs, although they can also attach to humans. Brown dog ticks are about 3mm in size when unfed and can grow up to 13mm when fully engorged. They are carriers of Rocky Mountain spotted fever, a bacterial disease that can cause severe illness in humans if left untreated.
4. Gulf Coast tick
Scientific name: Amblyomma maculatum Length: 6 mm (12+ when engorged) Distribution: Gulf coast states, a few inland southern states Transmits: rickettsiosis (a type of spotted fever)
The Gulf Coast tick is commonly found in the southern states bordering the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. They can also be found in states as far north as Colorado, Tennessee, or even New Jersey. These ticks primarily feed on birds and mammals but will bite humans when given the opportunity. Gulf Coast ticks are known to transmit rickettsiosis, a type of spotted fever caused by Rickettsia parkeri and other pathogens.
5. Lone star tick
Scientific name: Amblyomma americanum Length: 3 mm (13 when engorged) Distribution: Widespread in eastern U.S. south of the Great Lakes Transmits: ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, tularemia, STARI
The lone star tick gets its name from the distinctive white spot on the back of adult females. They are widely distributed in the eastern half of the United States, south of the Great Lakes. Lone star ticks are known to be extremely aggressive and will attach to any host that comes in their path. They can survive without a host for up to a year. These ticks transmit diseases such as ehrlichiosis, Heartland virus, tularemia, and STARI (Southern tick-associated rash illness).
6. Ground hog tick
Scientific name: Ixodes cookei Length: 3 mm Distribution: Eastern half of the U.S. Transmits: Powassan virus disease
The ground hog tick, also known as the woodchuck tick, is commonly found in the eastern half of the United States. While they prefer wild animals, they can also attach to domesticated animals and occasionally humans. Ground hog ticks are about 3mm in size and are similar in appearance to deer ticks. They can transmit Powassan virus disease, a rare but potentially serious illness.
How to Avoid Ticks in Florida
Ticks can be found in various outdoor environments, including grassy areas, wooded areas, and even urban parks. To minimize your risk of tick bites in Florida, consider following these prevention tips:
Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks. This helps create a barrier between your skin and ticks, making it more difficult for them to attach to your body.
Wear bug spray with less than 30% DEET. Apply insect repellent to exposed skin and clothing to repel ticks. Be sure to follow the instructions on the product label.
Pre-treat clothing with a chemical repellant like permethrin. Permethrin-treated clothing can provide additional protection against ticks. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.
Stay towards the center of trails. Ticks are more commonly found in brushy and grassy areas, so sticking to well-traveled paths can reduce your risk of encountering ticks.
Avoid tick-infested areas. Steer clear of high grass, leaf litter, and off-trail trekking, as these areas are more likely to harbor ticks.
It’s important to note that even with these precautions, it’s still possible to come into contact with ticks. Therefore, it’s crucial to perform regular tick checks on yourself, your family members, and your pets after spending time outdoors.
What Should I Do If I’m Bitten by a Tick?
If you find a tick attached to your skin, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. Follow these steps to safely remove a tick:
Use tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin as possible, avoiding squeezing the tick’s body.
Pull the tick upward with steady pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick, as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin.
Once the tick is removed, clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
Dispose of the tick by flushing it down the toilet or placing it in a sealed bag with rubbing alcohol if you would like to get it identified.
After a tick bite, monitor the bite area for any signs of infection or illness. If you experience symptoms such as rash, fever, headache, joint pain, or muscle pain within 30 days after the bite, it is important to seek medical attention. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider about the tick bite and any information regarding the tick species if possible.
The Dangers Ticks Pose
Ticks are known vectors of several diseases that can be harmful to both humans and animals. One of the most common diseases transmitted by ticks is Lyme disease, which can cause symptoms such as joint pain and can even impact the central nervous system if left untreated. Other diseases transmitted by ticks, such as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, tularemia, and Powassan virus disease, can also have serious health consequences.
Regardless of your location in the United States, it’s important to be aware of the risks of tick bites and take necessary precautions when spending time outdoors. If you suspect you have been bitten by a tick and experience symptoms, it is always recommended to see a doctor for evaluation and appropriate treatment.