SIZE: About one-quarter of an inch in length.
COLOR: Grayish-brown with a white dot that resembles a star in the center top of the abdomen.
BEHAVIOR: Like all ticks, the lone star tick is a bloodsucking ectoparasite. It is found in wooded areas where mammalian hosts such as deer, raccoons and opossums live. It lives near bodies of water where animals drink as well. Ticks require a blood meal at each stage of life in order to grow, and the female must engorge herself with blood to obtain the nourishment necessary to produce the thousands of eggs she lays. Despite the large number of eggs produced, only a small percentage will make it to maturity. Ticks do not embed their entire head into a host, only the mouthparts. To keep the blood from clotting, the tick will inject an anti-clogging agent. Bites from this tick, along with other closely related species, can cause a severe reaction. Lone Star ticks are very aggressive and actively travel to the host, unlike most species that wait for the host to come to them. These ticks can transmit diseases such as Ehrlichiosis, Tularemia and Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI).
Important note: If you develop a reddish rash around the site of a tick bite, suffer arthritis-like pain in one or more joints or have flu-like symptoms that come and go after recently being bitten by a tick, see your physician.
Lone star ticks are found throughout the eastern half of the United States. They frequent wooded areas and fields and are more common around homes and buildings in secluded or rural areas. This species is rarely found living indoors. If it is found inside, it will generally be discovered on dogs or cats.
Ticks are difficult to control, therefore, the services of an experienced professional are recommended. Treatments may be necessary in areas of the yard where ticks are found. The best way to avoid tick bites is to stay away from tick-infested areas. However, if it is necessary, follow these tips when working or walking in areas potentially inhabited by ticks:
Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Light colors are best so ticks are easier to detect.
Secure the bottom of pants inside socks or tie close around the ankles.
Wear a hat.
Tuck long hair under a hat.
Use tick repellent applied to clothing, particularly the lower body and the arms.
Carefully inspect your body after exiting infested areas. Have another person inspect your backside and back of your head.
Carefully inspect children for whom you are responsible if they have been in areas potentially infested by ticks.
Wash clothing in warm water and detergent immediately.
Never throw potentially infested clothing in a hamper with other clothes or onto the floor.
Protect pets by preventing them from venturing into tick-infested areas or consult your veterinarian for tick treatment products. Remember, your dog can contract diseases from ticks, too.
Inspect pets carefully for ticks after walking them in wooded areas or fields.
To remove a tick embedded in your skin, do not grasp it by the abdomen and pull. You may squeeze its stomach fluids into your skin and increase the chance for infection. Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick by the head next to the skin and slowly pull backward. Working slowly permits the tick to withdraw its mouthparts so they do not detach and remain in the skin. Once the tick has been removed, cleanse the area well with soap and water. You may want to disinfect the bite site with alcohol or apply an antibiotic cream.