Guess the Pest! Week 2 Answer: Lone Star Tick

David Owens, Extension Entomologist, owensd@udel.edu

Congratulations Michael Webb for correctly identifying last week’s Guess the Pest challenge. This was a bit of a tricky one, everyone who correctly identified the critter as a tick or entered a tick-borne disease will be entered for the end of season raffle. Michael also wins a heavy duty sweep net which can double up as a tick sampling device.

The image was of a lone star tick nymph, and the big concern with any tick is disease transmission. Lyme disease is the most well known, but ticks can carry up to 90 different potential pathogenic organisms. (Just because I only reference a couple of diseases doesn’t mean that is the only thing the tick can spread). In addition, lone star ticks can cause bite victims to develop allergies to red meat. Lone star ticks are extremely common in Delaware, and with the warm weather, they became active earlier this month. Lone stars reportedly do not vector Lyme disease, but can vector Ehrlichiosis and STARI, Morgellon’s diseases, and Powhassan virus. Other ticks of importance include deer ticks (primary Lyme disease vector), dog ticks (primary rocky mountain spotted fever vector), Asian longhorn tick (don’t know what it might vector), and another newcomer, Gulf Coast tick, which can vector other diseases.

Almost a third of Lyme Disease infections do not present the ‘bulls eye’ rash. Conventional wisdom is that it takes at least 24 hours before a tick can transmit Lyme Disease, but if that tick has recently fed on a different organism and then finds you, it might be able to spread the disease much faster. Antibiotics prescribed shortly after tick bite or onset of symptoms may be helpful for a variety of these potential diseases.

Symptoms of many tick-borne diseases include rashes, nausea, joint pain, headaches, vision problems, poor concentration, anxiety, depression, sleep problems, restless leg syndrome, numbness and tingling, and a host of other non-specific symptoms that can lead to a misdiagnoses. Complicating matters is that tests for tick diseases, although much improved, still give elevated rates of false negatives.

The best way to prevent tick problems is to use repellents such as DEET or Picaridin. Some products containing essential oils can be repellent, but generally do not last much more than 2 hours. Clothing can be treated with permethrin. Long socks and pants can also help. Woodlines, brushy areas, and edges of soybean fields are the most likely places to encounter ticks. If you are in such a place, do a full body check as soon as you can afterwards. The best way to remove a tick is to grasp it with tweezers and quickly yank upwards.

For more information, please contact the Lyme Disease Association of Delmarva, Inc. (https://www.facebook.com/easternshoremdlyme/) and the CDC’s website: https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/index.html

And the Canadian lyme disease foundation: https://canlyme.com/just-diagnosed/testing/common-misdiagnoses/.

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