Sunday, May 28, 2017

Lone Star Tick Revenge

Lone Star Tick on tape
Memorial Day Special for those who have encountered ticks this weekend.

Ticks are thriving at Bull Mills.  I have even encountered my first tick of the day on arrival, hanging on the lock on the front gate.  They climb all over the UTV, probably sensing the CO2 from the exhaust, a definite tick turn-on.  In spite of a liberal dosing of DEET and treating our clothing liberally with permethrin we commonly find them crawling on our clothes and bodies when we return home.

We have learned to keep transparent tape around the house and truck to remove them when ever they are crawling around.  Mashing tape on one is a satisfying feeling but if I want real revenge, I touch it lightly, attaching it to the scutum (hard shell back on the thorax) only, leaving the legs free to struggle like a turtle on its back.  The result on this Lone Star Tick (Amblyomma americanum) can be seen in this video.

Dog Tick -
Spider anatomy -
To help you figure out some of the moving parts you can use diagrams of the ventral view of a dog tick from Landers University in South Carolina. Spiders and ticks are arachnids, generally eight-legged and with some anatomical features in common.  Consider a spider which has chelicera, fangs and pedipalps which you can see in a good macro photograph.  These structures are all packed away in the little tick gnathosoma, the curved proboscis-like device flailing up and down in the video, wondering where I went.

The gnathosoma is the business end of a tick from my perspective, the thing that penetrates the skin. For some of you this may be what my kids used to call "way too much information."  The pedipalps grasp a fold of skin and hang on while the chelicerae cut through the epidermis.  The hypostome penetrates the wound and its teeth anchors it, the part that is hanging on when your skin tents up as you pull on the tick with tweezers.  The pedipalps also anchor it as it feeds.

So what is the tick left with when you pull up its "anchor"?  Assuming you get all of the tick, it may still have some of your debris.  This from the lab's instructions*:
"If your (tick) specimen was torn abruptly from its host there is likely to be host skin still caught in the gnathosoma and it must be removed. Use fine forceps to extract it. As you will soon see, the gnathosoma is equipped with recurved (posteriorly pointing) teeth designed specifically to prevent what you are attempting to do, i.e. separate the tick from the host's skin. Remember that the teeth face posteriorly and move the skin in that direction to unhook it from the teeth. Then pull the skin anteriorly to remove it. Repeat the process as often as necessary to free the skin."
Once you have removed the tick with tweezers you can crush it by squeezing with both hands, roast it over a burning match or candle, or even flush it down the toilet.  Or you can save the water like we do and just stick it on a piece of tape and leave it on the edge of the sink with all the other pieces of tick tape as a way of keeping score.
--- Lone Star Tick details

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