Why Ticks are so tricky
by Wim van Egmond, the Netherlands
With patience unrivaled in the animal kingdom a tiny eight-legged creature is waiting on the tip of a leaf. It's a young tick. With its acute senses it detects what it is waiting for so long, the odors of a large mammal.

Ticks are small relatives of spiders. With the mites (see water-mites and dust-mites) they form the order Acarina. Many of these tiny creatures are parasites. Like almost all spider relatives they can only feed on liquids. What better juice is there to find than blood! And ticks are specialists in sucking blood. 

Click here to see a 3D anaglyph (red and blue glasses!) version of this article 

Young sheep-tick embedded in human skin
You would think the loss of a little blood isn't such a big deal but don't forget, ticks are tricky. The problem is not just the sucking of blood. Some ticks carry dangerous diseases. One of the most dangerous diseases spread by ticks is Lyme disease. This disease is caused by the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi that may live in the saliva of several tick species: Deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis, in the US) and sheep ticks (Ixodes ricinus, in Europe). When infected ticks bite they can cause Lyme disease, in some cases with lethal consequences. 

If you find a tick in your skin it is wise to remove it as soon as possible. And here comes another reason why ticks are so tricky. They are not easy to remove! The close-up of a tick's mouth-parts show the hooks which make it very difficult to remove the tick from your skin. 

There is only one good method for removing ticks. Do not try to use alcohol, or try to burn the tick out. This will only cause a risk of the tick regurgitating its dangerous saliva in your blood.


How to remove a tick!

The best way to remove a tick is by using special forceps. You can buy these in every drugstore. With these modified tweezers you can grab the tick by the head, as close to your skin as possible. With a rotating motion the tick can be pulled out. The special forceps make it much easier to rotate than normal tweezers. Make sure that no parts of the tick's mouth-parts break off and remain in your skin.

It is important to consult a doctor if your skin develops a red spot. This can appear weeks after the tick-bite. Stay alert. The disease develops in several stages with intermediate lapses of weeks or months. There is always the risk of a Lyme disease infection. 


You can find out more about ticks and Lyme disease via the following links:

NASD on ticks

Lyme disease Network

Lyme disease foundation Inc.



Comments to the author Wim van Egmond are welcomed.

Published in the June 2001 issue of Micscape.

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