Unlike most of the United States, there is no definitive “tick season” in Florida because of the comfortable year-round climate. Ticks are active and breed at all times of year, so infestation, tick bites, and tick-borne diseases are all tick dangers that can occur at any time. Being able to identify ticks and being aware of common tick behaviors can help residents to avoid tick dangers.
Types of Florida Ticks
There are three main types of ticks that are common in Florida, the American dog tick, the brown dog tick, and the deer tick. All three types are brown before engorging, or taking a blood meal. After a blood meal all three ticks become grey and swollen. Brown dog ticks are identifiable by the reddish-brown cast of their exoskeletons and are more likely to infest homes, as they are the only one of the three types that can carry out the life cycle entirely indoors. Deer ticks are most commonly associated with certain tick diseases and are identifiable by their black legs.
Ticks “quest” to find hosts, a behavior that is carried out by holding onto vegetation or other objects with the rear legs and extending the front legs out to latch onto prey. Tick larvae typically feed on smaller prey animals, such as birds, while nymphs and adults feed on larger prey animals such as deer and dogs. After feeding, ticks drop off of host animals. Female adults will then lay eggs, ticks in other life stages will move through the next stage of the life cycle after feeding.
Removing ticks can be tricky, as ticks embed under the skin to feed. Ticks should never be removed using harsh chemicals or flames, as the ticks may become startled and regurgitate the stomach contents into the host’s bloodstream. Ticks should be removed by holding tweezers as close to the skin as possible and pinching, then pulling upward. If necessary, it may help to twist while pulling the tick from the skin in order to dislodge the mouth parts. It is important to remove all parts of the tick from the bite site.
Although not as common in Florida as in some of the Northeastern states, deer ticks have been known to carry Lyme disease. Deer ticks in Florida have also been known to cause Babesiosis. Babesiosis occurs when ticks inject hosts with parasites that attack red blood cells, causing nausea, fever, and even blood pressure and organ complications in hosts with weakened immune systems. If not removed quickly enough, or if mouth parts are left in the site of a tick bite, infections can occur. Tick bite may also cause skin irritation, anemia, and fever in dogs.