Some more about ticks. No, not The Tick comic or the movie Ticks … both may be entertaining, but they feature completely inaccurate depictions of ticks.
Let’s talk about real ticks: Ticks are rather large mites. To demonstrate this, here is a family portrait:From left to right, larva (6 legs), nymph (8 legs), male and female of Ixodes pacificus, the Western black-legged tick, from the west coast (you can see them with the naked eye, therefore they are big).
All members of the family feed on host blood using highly modified mouthparts, but only larvae, nymphs, and females engorge (feed to the point where their body truly swells up).
Here are some nice examples of engorged females. Keep in mind that while engorged ticks are easy to find, they are often difficult to identify.
Most of the ticks we encounter in Ohio have females that feed only once. They engorge, convert all that host blood into a single mass of hundreds to thousands of eggs, and die.
Ticks in general get really bad press. Kind of sad, because ticks are very good at quite a few things, like surviving (some can survive hours under water or years without food), or manipulating your immune system (using a dizzying array of chemicals often found only in ticks). On second thought, that may not strike most people as positive, so let me end with a few pictures of beautiful creatures. I already introduced Amblyomma americanum, which occurs in Ohio, the others are African, A. chabaudi on tortoises in Madagascar, A. variegatum usually on cattle. Amblyomma variegatum is the main vector of heartwater, a disease making cattle herding impossible in parts of Africa, but still, very pretty.
See some more of these specimens close-up, but at a safe distance through microscopes at our Annual Open House, April 22, 2017.
*** Which of these ticks is your “favorite”? Let us know on Facebook ***