|Lone star tick- Amblyomma_americanum|
Deer and other small mammals are frequently said to be the intended "natural" victims of ticks, a concept supported by their common names of "deer and dog ticks" as well as" lone star". We humans are supposedly incidental victims. (Try telling that to the ticks on Bull Creek. In spite of spraying, I pulled 30+ off my editor after she spent an afternoon pulling garlic mustard.)
A report from Washington University reported in sciencedaily.com describes how deer are bringing ticks to us in more urban areas. It appears that deer favor bedding down in bush honeysuckle. The large draping branches can grow 18 feet tall with stems 4 inches in diameter. They tend to grow in dense tangles, giving deer safe and luxurious overnight accommodations. In addition, they leaf out before other shrubs in the spring and retain their leaves through the fall, providing a longer term habitat.
Hard ticks (Ixodidae) can carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Lyme disease and Ehrlichiosis. Not only do the bush honeysuckle lure deer and their ticks in toward civilization, but they increase the percentage of ticks carrying disease.
"...the density of white-tailed deer in honeysuckle-invaded areas was roughly five times that in areas without honeysuckle and the density of nymph life-stage ticks infected with bacteria that cause human disease was roughly 10 times higher."In addition to giving you a great case of the heebie-jeebies, the article in sciencedaily.com has a lot of interesting details on how the studies were done. If you want to understand how there were "5,000 nymphal ticks within about a three-meter radius of where we put that trap down," this article is for you.
Some facts to impress your friends:
- Ticks are not insects but belong to the arachnid family like spiders and scorpions.
- The first instar emerging from the egg has only 6 legs while the second and third (adult) have 8 legs.
- Only the female lone star tick has the spot on its back. Its name is Amblyomma americanum- so think patriotic thoughts as you pull it off and crush it.
- Tick species, their range and diseases are at this CDC site.
- Missouri Tick Picture Gallery
- Identification and control measure information from
Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Conservation and the CDC are on line.
- A pamphlet, Curse of the Bush Honeysuckle, showing you how to identify the plant, is available at or from the MDC office or Conservation Nature Center.