Don’t let their tiny size and inconspicuous nature fool you: brown dog ticks
are more than just a nuisance. With their vicious jaws and seemingly endless appetite for blood, brown dog ticks have earned a reputation as one of the least-loved insects in North America. Lurking in the tall grass, patiently waiting to drop onto unsuspecting mammals and start engorging themselves with their blood, the eight-legged arachnids can cause tremendous trouble for both animals and humans. Here we’ve put together some of the most important reasons why the brown dog tick is one of the most feared pests across the country.
#1. They are everywhere
. Although they are most successful in warmer temperatures (20-30 degrees Celsius is optimal for egg-laying), the brown dog ticks have a world-wide distribution, being able to survive even in areas with frigidly cold climates. They are predominantly found in and around human habitations, dog kennels, and animal pens in urban, suburban, and rural environments, rarely being reported outside these spaces or in uninhabited regions.
#2. They are active all year round
. The brown dog ticks have a strong resistance to a wide range of conditions. Although feeding and development are faster at warmer temperatures, they can survive even the coldest winter temperatures, protected from the cold inside warm and dry human dwellings. The highest activity of all stages of brown dog ticks is reported between late spring and early autumn
#3. They can spend their entire lives indoors
. The brown dog tick is unique among other tick species
as it can survive and develop indoors, completing its entire life cycle without ever leaving the house. The brown dog tick is a three-host tick, meaning it drops off one host and seeks another to complete each of its three life stages: larval, nymphal, and adult. In a domestic environment with only one dog available, however, it is not uncommon for the tick to feed on the same host at three different times.
#4. They are excellent survivors
. Once hatched, larvae and nymphs can survive for 6 to 9 months without feeding, while adult males and females can go without a meal for up to 18 months. All life stages are resistant to desiccation, strong sunlight, heavy rain, and other unfavorable life conditions. The crawlers prefer domestic dogs as their main host in all three life stages, but will feed on other mammals, such as rodents, deer, and even humans, if a canine host cannot be located.
#5. They are extremely prolific
. Depending on the size and the amount of blood ingested, a female brown dog tick can lay up to 5,000 eggs in as long as 15 days. Following a blood meal that usually lasts for one week, the adult female tick drops off its host and lays all her eggs in a single mass, after which it dies. The larvae are seen crawling up walls in search for shelter, usually found inside cracks and crevices or in the corners of ceilings. Being as small as a poppy seed, they usually go unnoticed by owners until they have completed a full generation. In case of overlapping generations, ticks can be found in the thousands inside homes.
#6. They are important vectors of disease-causing pathogens
. The brown dog tick has been linked to the transmission of several disease-causing pathogens, dangerous to both animals and humans, including:
- Bacterial agent Ehrlichia canis, responsible for causing monocytic ehrlichiosis in domestic dogs
- Bacterial agent ewingii, responsible for granulocytic ehrlichiosis in domestic dogs and humans
- Bacterium Rickettsia ricksettsii, responsible for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever in domestic dogs and humans
- Bacterium Rickettsia conorii, responsible for Mediterranean spotted fever in domestic dogs and humans
- Protozoan parasite Hepatozoon canis, responsible for hepatozoonosis in domestic dogs
- Protozoan parasite Babesia canis, responsible for babesiosis in domestic dogs
- Bacterium Bartonella henselae, responsible for the cat scratch disease in humans
- And others
When Should You React?
An infestation is best controlled when the tick numbers are low, but most homeowners don’t acknowledge the dimension of their problem until the population has reached a very high level. If you see ticks climbing on walls and furniture, that’s usually an indication that you have a heavy infestation on your hands, and it’s crucial act as soon as possible. The most effective strategy for reducing the risk of a tick infestation in your residential or commercial property is an integrated approach
- Controlling ticks from around homes and businesses by eliminating favorable conditions that allow tick populations to reproduce and develop (e.g., trimming long grass and weeds, throwing old furniture, keeping grass mowed, raking leaf litter, reducing deer habitat by removing plants susceptible to deer browsing, eliminating debris and lumber piles, etc.)
- Ensuring personal protection of people and pets with specialized products (e.g., permethrin-protected boots, clothing, and camping gear, DEET repellents, sprays, tick collars, etc.)
- Implementing chemical control measures (acaricides) to high-risk tick habitats in accordance with local rules and regulations regarding pesticide application in the area; applications of pesticides are most effective when timed with peak nymphal populations
- Offering prevention education
Fear them or hate them, ticks are a fact of life when you live in Canada, and ignoring them won’t make them go away. Because they are dangerous and even life-threatening for both people and pets, their removal is best left to professionals
, who can come up with a year-round tick management and control plan to prevent the creepy crawlers from ever coming onto your property.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.