The question of what are ticks occasionally crosses the minds of homeowners, outdoor sports enthusiasts and other concerned homeowners Like fleas and lice, ticks are an ancient scourge. Scientists have found fossilized ticks from the prehistoric times when they were latching on to dinosaurs.
Notorious for silently carrying the destructive bacteria that cause Lyme disease, ticks can also infect humans with tularemia, a common wildlife disease, and other nasty pathogens. Ticks have been known to transmit Powassan encephalitis, a difficult-to-treat viral disease that kills 10 to 15 percent of its victims and frequently leaves survivors with permanent neurological damage. Inhabitants of developing countries wracked by uncontrolled diseases are particularly aware of the question of what are ticks.
Confusion over exactly what are ticks is common. Ticks are technically arachnids, not insects. Like spiders and scorpions, ticks have eight legs. Physically, many types of ticks somewhat resemble bedbugs and cockroaches, although variations in form can be significant. Much like bedbugs, ticks dig tiny holes into their victims, squirt anti-clotting agents into the oozing wounds and suck out blood until bloated. This intimate exchange of bodily fluids between the tick and the victim provides the vector for transmission of bacteria and viruses that ordinarily would not cross over to humans from animals. Female ticks can pass on diseases to their young even before the eggs hatch.
Ticks adore humid conditions and dense vegetation such as heavy shrubbery, tall grasses and forested areas. Pest-control experts in the United States advise outdoor enthusiasts and residents in rural locations to routinely check their clothing after tramping where ticks can easily scuttle onto passersby from the tips of branches, leaves or stalks of high grass. Wild deer especially tend to harbor significant populations of ticks. In some areas with large deer populations, many of the animals carry so many ticks that they are visibly dying from malnutrition and tick-borne parasites.
Local tick infestations can sometimes be addressed with commonly available commercial preparations. Still, ticks can become such a problem that there is nothing for it but to summon a professional exterminator who can properly evaluate and treat a heavy infestation without endangering nearby residents or pets with reckless applications of powerful insecticides. A trained expert will be aware of environmental regulations and have access to tools and supplies not ordinarily available to nonprofessionals.
Ticks can be a disgusting problem. However, people who wonder what are ticks and how to deal with them will almost certainly find themselves reassured that even a severe infestation can be reduced to manageable proportions. In the hierarchy of the immense world of creepy-crawlies, ticks are at most an occasionally dangerous nuisance. Further curiosity about these odd creatures is easily satisfied by a treasure trove of information elsewhere on our site.