Bug of the Week

Wood Tick (Family Ixodidae)


Greetings, BugFans,

The Bug Lady popped this sweet, young thing off her dog’s ear one fall morning before breakfast; well, before the Bug Lady’s breakfast, and clearly the tick was almost done with HER breakfast. Like the mosquito, the female tick must ingest blood in order to lay her eggs. Also like the mosquito, some ticks can carry diseases and so can leave you with more than a small hole in your arm and an “I donated blood” sticker. The tick is the champ when it comes to expandability, though. In real life, she is a mild-mannered, dark brown critter the size of a freckle – not much bigger than the dark area on her back in the first picture. Topped off, she’s close to ¾” long and, as they say, “round and firm and fully-packed.” The Bug Lady did not release her back into the wild.

Wood ticks and Dog ticks are not generally implicated as disease vectors in our area, although they have been known to carry Lyme Disease in areas where there are high concentrations of Lyme-carrying Deer ticks (which, when they are running on empty, are poppy-seed size).

No, not an insect, but often referred to by that worst of pejoratives – “bug”. Ticks have 8 legs, two body parts - a cephalothorax and an abdomen. They are in the Class Arachnida and are distantly related to fresh water mites and to the BugLady’s nemesis, the chigger. They have a complicated metamorphosis, going through four life stages – egg (one female can lay thousands), larva (extremely tiny, 6-legged), nymph (a little bigger, 8-legged) and adult.

Dorsal view of an engorged, female wood tick.
A poster child for “tight as a tick.”
Dorsal view of an engorged, female wood tick. A poster child for “tight as a tick.”

The Bug Lady saw a tick once, balanced at the tip of a grass leaf, four out of eight legs extended, waiting for something warm-blooded to brush past. Kids don’t seem to feel them – Naturalists see ticks crawling right up kids necks, which is more distracting to the naturalists than to the kids. Finding ticks walking around on their skin does freak out both the kids and many grown-ups. Finding a tick embedded, generally where it’s dark and close and personal, causes some people to levitate practically to the ceiling. An old Scout method is to slop Vaseline all over them, cutting off their air supply (they breathe through their skin) and causing them to back out ……….eventually….…sooo…….sloooowly……as…to…be…..imperceptable…... Most kids also aren’t thrilled at the sight of gasoline, turpentine, or a recently extinguished match head (or any combination there-of) coming close to the rear of the tick that is already making them hysterical. The best eviction technique is still a specially-designed tweezers, carefully-applied really close to the skin so as to grab the maximum TickParts). (eeewwwwww!)

When the Bug Lady lived in Texas, “sulfur-socks” were used to discourage ticks and chiggers. Yellow sulfur powder was put into the foot of an old sock (you could buy it from the drugstore then; now the government is probably protecting us from abusing it) and the top of the sock was knotted/twist-tied. The sock was whacked around one’s ankles, leaving one’s socks and jeans slightly yellow but bug-free.

If ticks and poison ivy were cash crops, the Nature Centers and Girl Scout camps would be flush.

The BugLady