Deer tick is a parasite, also known as blacklegged tick or Ixodes Scapularis. It belongs to the family Ixodidae and genus Ixodes. It is found abundantly in north-eastern United States also in parts of Mexico and Canada. They are ectoparasites and feed strictly on a blood meal throughout their life cycle. In the larval stage, they feed on blood of mice or birds. The Nymphs and adult blacklegged ticks feed on the blood of deer, raccoons, humans and pets. They reside in moist, wooded forest areas where their hosts are available in large numbers. It is the main vector for Lyme’s Disease in North America. Some Deer ticks may transmit B. Burgorferi as well as other parasites like Theileria microti and Anaplasma phagocytophilum which causes diseases such as Babesiosis and Human granulocytic anaplasmosis respectively.
Description: The size of the adult tick is like that of a sesame seed. The males are black or dark brown in colour. The females on the other hand, have a black head and a dark red abdomen. The anal opening of the adult tick is on the lower edge of the abdomen on the ventral side. It has eight legs, black in colour.
Nymphs are almost as small as a poppy seed. It has eight legs, black in colour, with a translucent body and a dark head. Most cases of Lyme’s disease is caused due bites of the nymph.
Larvae are too small, making it quite difficult to be seen with the naked eye. Hence most bites go unnoticed.
Life cycle: There are four stages of the development of the Deer Tick namely Eggs, Larva, nymph and adult. Eggs after being hatched turn into larvae, which are most active in summer. Larva moults and becomes a Nymph. The Nymphs remain dormant and in spring time they begin feeding on larger mammals and humans as well. Adults: the male forms do not feed. They attach to a host and find a female mate on the host. The female dies after laying eggs. Once on the host organism, the ticks have specialised stylets that pierce the host. After piercing the host, they suck their blood meal, it also produces glue like substance which helps it to attach to the host and withdraw blood. The blood then passes into the idiosoma.
Prevention: In forest areas it is better to wear long sleeved shirts and pants. Clothes worn should be preferable light in colour in order that the ticks are detected easily. The pants should be tucked into the socks. A tick repellent cream may be used. On returning back home, clothes must be washed immediately and the head and body inspected for any ticks. Also reducing the number of primary hosts like rodents and smaller mammals may help in the long run as the Deer ticks experience a break in their life cycle. Guinea fowls are known to be voracious consumers of ticks and various other insects. Hence domesticating and increasing the number of guinea fowls also is a more practical method to reduce the spread of ticks.
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