Soft Ticks

( Family Argasidae )

Characteristics

SIZE: About one-quarter of an inch in length.

COLOR: Varies depending on species from sandy-brown to reddish-brown to dark brown.

BEHAVIOR: Soft ticks differ from the hard ticks in that their body shape is oval and the head and mouthparts are hidden underneath the body. Soft ticks also are more flesh-like in appearance and do not have the hard, flattened exterior of ticks such as the brown dog tick, American dog tick and similar species. The most commonly encountered soft ticks around buildings are those that infest birds belonging to the genus Argas and those infesting rodents of the genus Ornithodoros. Rodents transmit the spirochete that causes relapsing fever in the western United States. Cabins, rural homes and other secluded buildings that become infested with rodents may potentially house Ornithodoros soft ticks. Should the rodents leave or tick populations become too high, the ticks may attach themselves to persons residing or sleeping in infested buildings. Bird or fowl ticks of the genus Argas may be encountered on farms where poultry are kept or in buildings infested by pigeons that carry the pigeon tick, A. reflexus. These ticks are quite mobile and may crawl significant distances in search of hosts. For example, they may invade a structure on a farm or move down through a building from pigeon roosts. Soft ticks are most common in the western United States and are vectors of Tickborne Relapsing Fever.

Habitats

Soft ticks will be present wherever their rodent or bird hosts live. Rodent burrows, attics, wall voids and crawl spaces are just a few examples.

Tips for Control

If soft ticks are found within a building, Terminix® recommends consulting a professional. The birds or rodents serving as hosts must first be controlled, and, if necessary, excluded. Further steps must be taken to ensure rodents or birds cannot reenter the building. It is important to remove any rodent or bird nest that is accessible and also treat cracks and voids where ticks may be located. Should you discover a tick embedded in your skin, do not grasp it by the abdomen and pull. You may squeeze its stomach fluids into your skin, increasing 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 will permit 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.

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