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Ticks are small arachnids, part of the order Parasitiformes. Along with mites, they constitute the subclass Acari. Ticks are ectoparasites (external parasites), living by feeding on the blood of mammals, birds, and sometimes reptiles and amphibians. Ticks had evolved by the Cretaceous period, the most common form of fossilisation being immersed in amber. Ticks are widely distributed around the world, especially in warm, humid climates.
Almost all ticks belong to one of two major families, the Ixodidae or hard ticks, which are difficult to crush, and the Argasidae or soft ticks. Adults have ovoid or pear-shaped bodies which become engorged with blood when they feed, and eight legs. As well as having a hard shield on their dorsal surfaces, hard ticks have a beak-like structure at the front containing the mouthparts whereas soft ticks have their mouthparts on the underside of the body. Both families locate a potential host by odour or from changes in the environment.
Ticks have four stages to their lifecycle, namely egg, larva, nymph, and adult. Ixodid ticks have three hosts, taking at least a year to complete their lifecycle. Argasid ticks have up to seven nymphal stages (instars), each one requiring a blood meal. Because of their habit of ingesting blood, ticks are vectors of at least twelve diseases that affect humans and other animals.

West Michigan

There are a growing number of ticks in the area. Especially along the western shoreline, the beach grass in the dunes, hiking trails, game areas. The three species of Ticks that are most commonly encountered in our state are, American Dog Tick, Lone Star Tick, and the Deer Tick or also known as the Black legged Ticks. The Black legged Tick is the one that carries the Lyme Disease. The symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. After you have been outdoors or in an area where you suspect there might be ticks do a thorough tick check on yourself, your kids and your pets.

What do you do if you find a tick on you?

How to Remove a Tick


Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin's surface as possible. Avoid pinching your skin.


Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don't twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off.


If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.


After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.


Dispose of a live tick by submersing it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape. Never crush a tick with your fingers.


If you develop a rash or fever within several weeks of removing a tick, see your doctor. Bring the tick you saved for testing.

Pets and Ticks

Our furry friends need special attention when it comes to tick control. They need our help. If your pet spends lots of time outdoors, tick checks should be part of your daily routine. Here’s how to spot a tick – and what to do if one has grabbed hold of your pet.

Scan for ticks by running your fingers slowly over your dog's entire body. If you feel a bump or swollen area, check to see if a tick has burrowed there. Don't limit your search to your dog's torso: check between his toes, under his armpits, the insides of his ears, and around his face and chin. Ticks can be black, brown or tan and they have eight legs. They can also be tiny: some species are only as large as the head of a pin. If you find a tick it needs to be removed safely. The equipment you’ll need are gloves, clean tweezer/tick removers, disinfectant or antiseptic cream and Isopropyl alcohol.
Always stay safe and wear gloves while handling ticks to avoid contact with your skin. Now, using the tweezers, grasp the tick as close to your dog’s skin as possible (without pinching your pet). Slowly pull out the tick in a straight, steady motion. Anything left behind could lead to an infection. If you’re using a tick remover, gently press the remover against your pet’s skin near the tick. Slowly slide the notch of the remover under the tick, pulling it free.
Now to clean up. Drop the tick into isopropyl alcohol and note the date you found the tick. If your pet begins displaying symptoms of a tick-borne illness, your veterinarian may want to identify or test it. Wash your hands, clean your pet’s wound with antiseptic and make sure to clean your tweezers with isopropyl alcohol. Keep an eye on the area where the tick was to see if an infection surfaces. If the skin remains irritated or infected, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Watch your pet for symptoms of tick-borne diseases. Some symptoms include arthritis or lameness that lasts for three to four days, reluctance to move, swollen joints, fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, loss of appetite and neurological problems.
If you or your companion animals spend any time outdoors, you should routinely check for ticks. Ticks transfer between hosts, so it is important to check all family members after outdoor activities in wooded, leafy or grassy outing. In many areas of the United States, ticks are active year-round, even after a killing frost.

West Nile Virus

The first West Nile virus activity for Michigan in 2017 has been confirmed in three birds across the state. West Nile virus has been identified in one turkey found in Barry County, and two crows – one from Kalamazoo County and one from Saginaw County. Residents are reminded that the best way to protect against West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne illnesses is to prevent mosquito bites.
People who work in outdoor occupations or like to spend time outdoors are at increased risk for West Nile virus infection from mosquito bites. Adults 50 years old and older have the highest risk of severe illness caused by West Nile virus.
Symptoms of West Nile virus include a high fever, confusion, muscles weakness, and a severe headache. More serious complications include neurological illnesses, such as meningitis and encephalitis. Last year, there were 43 serious illnesses and three deaths related to West Nile virus in Michigan. Nationally, there were 2,038 human cases of the virus and 94 deaths reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.