Tick Habitat and LifespanTicks reach adulthood after approximately one year, and while they begin feeding in the nymph stage long before that, they are incredibly tiny and thus rarely noticed even if they do bite. Ticks remain inactive during the winter, so investing in extensive tick treatment in the later parts of the year may not be advised. In spring and summer, adult ticks are at their most active. Ticks sense food – that is, any warm-blooded vertebrate – through smell, heat, and humidity.
A single tick may lay thousands of eggs in one spring. It is possible for certain trees or yards to become infested with so many ticks that venturing outside is likely to get you bitten multiple times; pets are even more likely to be targets. Ticks may find their way into your home on their own, or they may consistently hitch a ride on a pet or mice. Once inside, they tend to hide in dark, quiet cracks and corners.
Health RisksTicks are not usually threatening to humans on their own. The amount of blood they consume is negligible. The greatest risks are Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease, diseases stemming not from the tick itself but rather pathogens that are transmitted when a tick bites. They are both potentially serious if left untreated, but can be easily remedied with antibiotics in the vast majority of situations.
A much rarer condition is tick paralysis, caused by a neurotoxin the tick emits when attached to a host for several days without removal. Tick paralysis causes steady numbness and eventual paralysis from the legs moving up; death usually occurs once the condition reaches the lungs. However, the symptoms usually disappear within hours of removal of the tick.
Tick TreatmentBeyond carefully examining all people and pets after going outside for ticks, and wearing skin-covering clothing whenever possible, it is difficult to deal with a large-scale tick infestation on your own. Avoiding trees and tall grass can help—ticks usually drop down onto their hosts from above, or hop on from ground vegetation when something walks by. Methods that reduce rodent populations are also advised, since many ticks find ready meals in mice and other pests.
If the situation is especially bad, a professional pest control service can treat your home and your yard to substantially reduce tick populations. It is important to do your research regarding what species of tick is most likely the problem and what options are in your area.