The lone star tick gets its name from the single silvery-white spot located on the female’s back. These ticks attack humans more frequently than any other tick species in the eastern and southeastern states.
The lone star tick is considered a three-host tick because each feeding stage requires a different host. Feeding typically occurs during the spring and early summer months. Larvae and nymphs feed on the blood of birds, rodents and small wild animals like rabbits, squirrels and raccoons. Adults often feed on larger animals, including foxes, dogs, white-tailed deer and humans. This tick species then enters a non-feeding period in mid to late summer, which is triggered by decreasing day length.
All three developmental stages of the lone star tick can feed on humans by attaching to the skin using its mouthparts. This tick can be a vector of tularemia, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and ehrlichiosis.
Lone star ticks cannot survive long exposures to sunlight, so they are typically found in shaded, wooded areas with low-growing vegetation.
Outdoors, experts recommend wearing tick repellent and long-sleeved clothes. Homeowners should keep grass cut low and ensure weeds and woodpiles are removed.
If a tick is found on the body, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp it as close to the skin’s surface as possible. Then, pull upward with steady, even pressure and avoid twisting or jerking the tick as this can cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. Once the tick is removed, thoroughly clean the bite site with soap and water. Then, flush the tick down the toilet or wrap it tightly in a tissue before disposing in a closed receptacle. If you develop a rash, headaches, pains or fever, call a doctor immediately.