The Lone Star Tick

Amblyomma americanum tick

Lone star tick by US Centers for Disease Control – Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.

The lone star tick is a common tick that is rapidly expanding throughout the northern and western portions of the country.

These ticks are common in second-growth woodland habitats, especially in areas with exceptional amounts of white-tail deer.

HOW TO IDENTIFY LONE STAR TICKS

Lone star ticks can be identified by prominent white marks–like a star–on their backs. Both males and females of this species have noticeable white marks, but those on females are much more distinguished. These ticks are often confused for black-legged ticks.


Appearance and Behavior

These ticks prefer damp, shady areas with the tall brush. They are three-host ticks, taking a meal from the blood of three different hosts when they are in their larval, nymphal, and adult stages. 

After feeding on each host, the tick falls to the ground and either molt or lays eggs. These ticks most commonly infect humans as well as large mammals, like cattle or horses.

Lone star ticks begin breeding after a female consumes a blood meal and drops off. In just a few days, each female can lay over 5,000 eggs. Protected areas with high humidity are needed for proper egg development, with eggs hatching in only a few days. 

These ticks are most active on warm days during May and June, but can also emerge on unseasonably warm days in the winter and spring.

HOW DO YOU GET LONE STAR TICKS


Lone star ticks feed on the blood of humans, as well as on the blood of mammals like squirrels, raccoons, dogs, cattle, and horses. These ticks can catch a ride on your skin when you are walking through a brushy area, or can be brought inside on a tick-infested dog or other pet. Ticks on raccoons or other small mammals can become a problem if they enter your home’s crawl space.


HOW TO GET RID OF LONE STAR TICKS


If you have a lone star tick infestation, or if you notice an excessive amount of these ticks on your skin, make sure you take steps to eliminate them as soon as possible. This will reduce your likelihood of contracting an unpleasant tick-borne illness.

You can eliminate your likelihood of picking up a tick by always wearing long pants and tall socks when walking through wooded areas. Spray your clothing and skin with a DEET-based tick repellant, and avoid especially brushy areas. 

If your lawn has a particularly large tick problem, you can spray an insecticide to get rid of them, although this isn’t recommended as it can damage beneficial insect populations as well. Keep your lawn mowed and tidy to reduce tick habitat as well.

In many cases, you might need to contact a licensed pest control professional to eliminate a massive tick problem for you. These professionals will inspect your lawn for tick-friendly conditions, such as shady spots, tall brush, and excess moisture. 

Then they’ll work to eliminate the infestation through the use of habitat modifications and the potential use of chemical insecticides.


Lone Star Tick Diseases


Tularemia

A Tularemia lesion on the dorsal skin of right hand. Tularemia is caused by the bacterium, Francisella tularensis. Photo: CDC Public Health Image Library. Public Domain.

Many people erroneously believe that lone star ticks cause Lyme disease, although this is not the case. Lone star ticks aren’t known to carry Lyme disease, but can still cause a variety of health problems. 

A lone star tick bite can cause a rash similar to that caused by the Lyme disease virus, and create symptoms such as fatigue and muscle pain. 

Also, these ticks can spread tularemia and southern tick-associated rash illness. These illnesses can be prevented by wearing long-sleeved clothing and covering up any exposed skin.