Ticks are most frequent during late winter and early spring when the weather is cooler and more humid. Common ticks seen in Southern California include the western-black-legged tick, the American wood tick, and the pacific coast tick. However, of the 47 species of ticks, the western-black-legged is the most widely distributed in California. As a nymph, the western-black-legged tick is about the size of a poppy seed with four pairs of legs, a dark brownish-black back, and a light-colored translucent abdomen. When they reach their adult stage, they grow long mouthparts and a reddish-orange abdomen. Ticks have four life stages: egg, larva, nymph, and adult stage. Ticks start feeding on the blood of vertebrates at their larva stage. At their nymph stage, ticks abound in hardwood forests or woodlands that have leaf litter or fir needles, and they spread to more open habitats, like grasslands, for example.
They have been encountered along margins of trails, semirural communities, and in some suburban areas. Dogs and cats are susceptible to tick exposure when roaming outside and can let ticks inside the home. Ticks use their needle-like mouthparts to puncture the skin and feed on blood from humans and animals. When this is done, bacteria found in the tick’s gut can be transmitted to the host when blood is drawn. This bacteria is responsible for debilitating illnesses such as Lyme disease, Tularemia, and Rickettsia. People are more apt to getting ticks when exposed to grass or brush for long periods. Dressing appropriately can prevent ticks from grasping onto one’s skin, for example, wearing long sleeves, full-length pants, socks, and shoes. Spraying a repellent can also help prevent ticks. If a tick is found attached to the skin, remove it immediately if possible. Use a pair of tweezers by grasping the tick as close to the skin as possible and slowly pull the tick straight out. Do not squash a fed tick as agents can be transmitted through broken skin. Clean the wound with soap and water and apply a mild antiseptic such as povidone-iodine, if available. If you see ticks around your home or on a pet call Accurate Termite Pest Control as soon as possible.