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280 days of Urbpandemonium #12

 photo P1020146_zpszy9xjubl.jpg
After a short walk through my suburban neighborhood--including a wooded easement next to a cemetery--I sat in my kitchen texting my wife. Suddenly the eight-legged silhouette of the pictured animal crossed the backlit screen. It appeared that I was the next step of the journey for a "questing" blacklegged tick Ixodes scapularis (more popularly called a deer tick).

Previous to crawling on me, she had crawled to the edge of the twig of a shrub, reaching (questing) with her front legs, smelling the carbon dioxide I was emitting, and sensing my body heat. Previous to that she had endured the long winter, possibly under the seven feet of snow, under a warm decomposing layer of leaf litter. She may have just recently become an adult--not long ago she was a tiny nymph the size of a poppy seed, clinging to the creature that provided the meal that allowed her to grow and shed her exoskeleton.

We don't know what creature it was that served as her past home and meal ticket, but we know it was warm blooded. Chances are very good that it was a white footed mouse, in which case she was also very likely to be carrying the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, Babesiosis, or Anaplasmosis. If as a nymph she fed on a white tailed deer--less likely, since nymphs tend to stay low and feed on smaller creatures--then she would be rather more unlikely to carry these pathogens, especially Lyme disease. If her previous host was an opossum, she would have been among the lucky 10 percent that made it past the North American marsupial's diligent groom-and-eat regimen.

Females are identifiable by the large amount of red colored body not covered by the scutum, or dorsal shield. The scutum provides protection, but also is inelastic, and these blood-feeders need to be able to expand their body to accumulate the massive meal they need to produce their eggs. Males take smaller meals and are more fully covered by the scutum, making them look smaller and darker.

After I took this picture I removed this tick from the food web--they are an overabundant species causing serious human and animal health problems. I also reported it to TickEncounter.com like a good citizen scientist.

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
meerkat77
Apr. 7th, 2015 06:38 am (UTC)

I'm amazed how interesting a post on those little fuckers can be.  I pulled the first one from my dog's neck last week and stopped sn other obe before it could find its destination.

dinahprincedaly
Apr. 7th, 2015 11:08 pm (UTC)
That is INSANE. After the winter you had. How can those things be thriving already. I thought the one blessing of a rough long winter was it would knock back the tick population
urbpan
Apr. 8th, 2015 01:39 pm (UTC)
The only weather that might reduce the tick population would be very dry very hot weather (as if!)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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