How to Identify, Prevent, and Check for Ticks in North Carolina

How to Identify, Prevent, and Check for Ticks in North Carolina

Ticks aren’t a pest that many of us think of fondly. After all, the parasite feasts on the blood of humans and animals. Although these pests increase their activity levels in the spring and summer, they pose a year-round threat in the Carolinas.

Ticks live outdoors and typically reside in wooded or brushy areas. During the warmer months, people may even find ticks taking up residence inside their homes. Being proactive about ticks in North Carolina—learning how to identify them, prevent them, and how to remove them safely—helps prevent the health risks associated with ticks.

Dangers of NC Ticks

Families in North Carolina have valid concerns about the dangers of ticks. Ticks pose a threat to the health of both humans and pets. Ticks thrive off their hosts’ blood and, in many cases, can remain on the host for several days. Most types of ticks in NC feed an average of two to three days and swell up to double their sizes. Since ticks are small, it’s not uncommon to not notice the pest immediately after a bite. Ticks don’t transmit any type of pathogens right away to spread diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control, ticks can take between 10 and 120 minutes to prepare for feeding. Any saliva released by the bug may contain a pathogen that’s transmitted to the host throughout the feeding.

Although there are thousands of species of ticks, only certain ticks in NC spread diseases. Tick-borne illnesses are the most significant hazards of tick bites. Medical conditions from types of ticks in NC include Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, encephalitis, and tularemia.

Types of Ticks Found in North Carolina

If you have found a tick on you or your pet, you should consider snapping a photograph of it before removing it to help with identification. Another option is to save the parasite in a jar of alcohol if you have concerns about disease transmission.

The following are the most common ticks in North Carolina and how to distinguish between them.

Lone Star Tick

  • Females have a distinct white star on their backs
  • Adults grow to about 1/4-inch in length
  • Active year-round
  • Rarely found indoors, unless attached to a pet; usually located in wooded areas and brushy fields

Brown Dog Tick

  • Most common tick in the world
  • Prefers warm climates and most active during the summer months in NC
  • Reddish-brown color and average adult growth to 1/8-inch
  • Name derived from preference to target dogs

American Dog Tick

  • Typically found in fields, trails, scrubland, and other areas with little tree coverage
  • Feeds on both large and small mammals, including humans
  • Transmits Tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, and Lyme Disease
  • Primarily active April through early August

Deer Tick

  • Also known as a black-legged tick; it’s distinct for its small size, with adults measuring about 1/8-inch
  • Primary transmitters of Lyme disease
  • Mainly lives in eastern states, with the western black-legged ticks residing west of the Rocky Mountains

Gulf Coast Tick

  • Resides in areas alongside the Atlantic Ocean coast and the Gulf of Mexico coast
  • Adults have a dark brown coloring with some silver markings on their backs
  • Adults grow an average of 1/4-inch in size
  • Prefers to feed on birds and deer

How to Tell the Difference Between Types of Ticks

Understanding the differences between ticks helps you determine your risk of disease transmission. Although you want to prevent all ticks from feasting on you, certain ticks carry a higher risk of carrying harmful pathogens. For instance, although several ticks may transmit Lyme disease, deer ticks are, by far, the primary carrier of the severe disorder.

For starters, evaluate the color of the tick. Some of the pests have distinct black coloring, like deer ticks. Other NC ticks have a reddish-brown coloring. like brown dog ticks. Parasites like the Gulf Coast tick and Lone Star tick have specific markings on their backs to help with identification.

Another way to identify a type of tick is by its size. Some bugs are no bigger than a sesame seed as adults, while others grow larger. Deer ticks and Gulf Coast ticks are usually much smaller than larger species like the dog tick. However, sizes can change drastically, based on whether or not the tick has recently fed. As the bug becomes engorged with blood, their sizes can nearly double.

Another way to identify ticks in NC is to consider the time of year. Some ticks are most active in the warmer months while others reach their height of activity in the cooler fall temperatures. For example, deer ticks are more likely to be found during the fall, while wood ticks have a higher activity level in the summer.

How to Be Proactive to Prevent Ticks

Prevent ticks by taking precautions before you head outdoors. If you plan to go into any type of wooded or brushy area, dress appropriately. Wear clothing that covers your entire body, including long pants, long sleeves, and closed-toe footwear. You may want to wear lightly colored clothing if you plan to hike, as this will allow you to easily locate smaller ticks. Treat any type of clothing you wear with repellent containing 0.5 permethrin, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This chemical is safe for clothing items, but any variety of repellents applied to the skin should contain ingredients such as picaridin, DEET, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. If you’re treating with children with repellent, read all label warnings to ensure the product is safe for use on them.

Prevent ticks in your yard by keeping your grass short and free of weeds. Lawn professionals can apply a barrier around the perimeter of your yard to ward off any ticks. Natural barriers can also be created by spreading wood chips around the edge of your yard.

Despite their name, deer ticks contract Lyme disease from mice. Therefore, it’s important to eradicate mice from your yard. Mice tend to nest in areas like woodpiles. Remove any brush and leaf piles promptly to reduce your chances for mice infestations.

Talk to your veterinarian if you have concerns about ticks and your pets. Your vet may recommend topical products to reduce the danger of ticks to your pet. There are also medications for dogs and cats to kill fleas and ticks that attempt to bite them.

How to Check Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Pets for Ticks

In North Carolina, most tick-borne diseases can be readily treated if caught early. Failure to treat such diseases can result in serious health complications and possibly even death.

Spring and summer bring the highest risk of tick bites and areas around the North Carolina Piedmont Counties make for prime tick territory. After any outdoor hike or walk, check yourself for ticks. Even while biting, they can be difficult to notice.

After you return from any type of outdoor activity, return home, and remove all clothing items. Inspect your body and clothing to determine if any ticks have bitten you. Many individuals find it useful to shower during a tick inspection to locate the pests. When checking for pests on your body, use a mirror for assistance. You should rely on your fingers to feel for any ticks that may have taken up residence on your scalp or behind your ears. Any type of small bump on your skin could indicate the parasite. Examine this spot more closely to confirm its presence.

Examine your clothing items and your children’s clothing items to see if any ticks are visible. Even if you don’t find any ticks, wash your clothes in hot water and dry them on high heat.

Check pets routinely for ticks, especially after taking them for walks or during the height of tick season. For dogs, run your fingers through their fur to see if you feel any strange bumps. Pay extra attention to areas of concern such as the ears, toes, neck, legs, and tail. If you feel something out of the ordinary, take a closer look using a flashlight or magnifying glass.

If you have trouble checking for ticks on your own, request a family member’s assistance.

What Does a Tick Bite Look Like?

Although tick bites can produce symptoms, sometimes you may not even notice any signs. Because ticks are so small, tick bites can go unnoticed, making body checks very important. In other incidences, a tick bite may produce pain and irritation at the bite site. A stinging or burning sensation may persist after the bite. Skin outbreaks are also common, resulting in rashes in people after being bitten. In severe cases, the skin may blister.

If tick-borne diseases were transmitted, symptoms might appear within days or weeks after the bite. Symptoms include neck stiffness, body aches, headaches, muscle pain, nausea, fever, and chills. Patients should seek medical treatment immediately if they develop any medical issues after a tick bite.

Most significantly, a bulls-eye rash occurs often after Lyme disease transmission. Features of this rash include a red circular shape with a transparent center. The outbreak expands over time. However, not all Lyme disease rashes look the same. Moreover, not all patients develop a rash after contracting Lyme disease.

What to Do if You Discover a Tick or Tick Bite on You or Your Animal

The most uncomplicated strategy for tick removal is with a pair of tweezers. Grasp the bug as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Pull upwards with firm pressure and in a steady motion. Jerking the tick roughly out could cause the pest to break apart and leave portions lodged in the skin. Use the tweezers to remove any parts still attached to the surface. Sanitize the area after removal with an alcohol wipe. (Please ignore the so-called tick removal tricks such as using a hot match or nail polish.)

After removing the tick from your pet or family member, you can decide whether to kill the bug or save it for testing. Never attempt to crush the tick to kill it. Instead, flush the pest down the toilet or seal it in a closed container. You could also submerge it in a jar of alcohol. Then, wash your hands, and clean the bite area with antibacterial soap and water.

Tick Dangers in the Charlotte Area

The Charlotte region is full of natural beauty, and living here, we should take advantage of as much of it as possible. The Carolina Thread Trail weaves through Cabarrus, Gaston, Mecklenburg and Union. The trail, as well as other local favorites ­– including Freedom Park, the Whitewater Center, and Crowders Mountain State Park – offer beautiful walks and hikes so close to the city. But they also bring the risk of ticks and the associated diseases. We encourage you to enjoy these areas while staying aware of ticks, and practicing the safety tips presented.

The Cost of Tick Control Treatments

Tick control prices vary, depending on several factors. One factor is the size of your home and yard. Pest control technicians treat both the interior and exterior of your property. If you only eliminate fleas and ticks inside your home, another infestation is likely to be found in your backyard. Another cost factor is the type of products needed to get rid of fleas and ticks in and around your home. Lastly, the number of flea and tick control treatments will affect the cost. Many homeowners choose to book preventative pest control appointments to protect against fleas and ticks during their most active seasons.

Flea and tick control methods are costly without professional assistance. Homeowners need products to treat their homes, yards, and pets. Without proper treatment, recurrences of flea and tick infestations are likely. Fleas cause itching and discomfort to your pets, while ticks pose serious health risks.

A professional flea and tick control treatment ranges between $150 and $300.

How Carolina Pest Management Can Help You Guard Against Ticks

Carolina Pest Management is here to help resolve your tick problem. Our tick control services keep your entire household safe from ticks that could be residing in your yard. We use safe and effective treatments to remove ticks entirely – inside and outside your home. Contact us today to learn more about our pest control services.

By Kristin Dodd

Kristin Dodd, the President of Carolina Pest Management, has been with the company full-time for over 20 years, but has been a part of the family-owned business for much longer. She is currently an active board member of the North Carolina Pest Management Association, and was the President from 2010-2011. She is a licensed operator in...

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