Although ticks are commonly thought of as insects, they are actually arachnids like scorpions, spiders and mites. All members of this group have four pairs of legs as adults and have no antennae. Adult insects have three pairs of legs and one pair of antennae. Ticks are among the most efficient carriers of disease because they attach firmly when sucking blood, feed slowly and may go unnoticed for a considerable time while feeding. Ticks take several days to complete the feeding. Ticks have four life stages: egg, six-legged larva, eight-legged nymph, and adult. After the egg hatches, the tiny larva, sometimes called a seed tick, feeds on an appropriate host. Both male and female adults feed on the host then the females lay eggs sometime after feeding. Ticks wait for host animals from the tips of grasses and shrubs, not in trees. When brushed by a moving animal or person, they quickly let go of the vegetation and climb onto the host. Ticks can only crawl, they cannot fly or jump.
Ticks can be active on winter days when the ground temperatures are about 45 degrees F.
There are three main species of ticks found in Georgia.. They are: The Lone Star Tick, the American Dog Tick or Wood tick and the Blacklegged or Deer tick.
The Lone Star Tick
The most widely encountered tick in Georgia is the Lone Star Tick. Larva, nymphs and adults will feed on a variety of warm-blooded hosts, including people. The larva are very tiny, only a little larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The nymph, the most common stage found on people, is about pinhead-sized. Adults are about 1/8 inch long and brown. The female adult has a white spot in the middle of her back. Because they are so similar in size, the Lone Star Tick is sometimes misidentified by laypersons as the Black Leg and Deer Tick. Although it can transmit Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, the Lone Star Tick is not as likely to transmit the disease as the American Dog Tick. This tick may also transmit tularemia and some other diseases to humans. The Lone Star Tick is not believed to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
The American Dog Tick
The American Dog Tick is it the second most commonly encountered tick in Georgia and is sometimes known as the Wood Tick.
Unfed males and females are reddish brown and about 3/16 of an inch long. The females have a large silver colored spot behind the head and will become 1/2 inch long after feeding or about the size of a small grape. Males have a fine silver line on the back and do not get much larger after feeding. This tick transmits the bacterium that causes Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It requires at least four hours of being attached to the host to transmit the disease.
Black Legged Tick
The Black Legged Tick, also known as the Deer Tick, will feed on a variety of hosts, including humans. Adults are reddish brown and about 1/8 of an inch long or about one half the size of the more familiar female American Dog Tick. These ticks are found in wooded areas along trails. The larva and nymphs are active in the spring and early summer; adults might be active in both the spring and the fall. The Black Legged Tick can transmit Lyme disease and possibly other disease organisms to humans.