If you have an interest in hiking or camping, you have probably heard about ticks. Ticks are generally known to carry a number of dangerous pathogens that can cause disease in a variety of animals. The lone star tick, however, is unique and quite possible a naughty vegan's wish come true.
Physical Description and Behavior
Both male and female ticks of this species are rusty red in color. Males have small whitish/cream spots near their hindquarters, while females have a single large cream spot on the center of their back. Females are also larger than males, being around 4-6mm long, but they can grow 4-5 times this size after feeding.
Fun Fact: Lone Star Ticks are newly discovered arachnids with an odd ability. Instead of transferring Lyme Disease as some other ticks do, this one can cause the host to become allergic to red meat. This is known as alpha-gal syndrome, as it creates an immune response to a carbohydrate found in most mammalian cells known as galactose-alpha-1,3-galactose.
Also, while they do not spread Lyme Disease, that does not mean they are benign. It is now known that on top of Alpha-Gal Syndrome, they can also spread other pathogens such as ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, tularemia, and theileriosis.
These ticks are a 3-host species, meaning that they only have 3 hosts during their life. They have only one host during each stage of their life: The larvae stage, the nymph stage, and the adult stage. At each stage, the tick engorges itself, falls off, and finds a new host. After females feed, they can lay as many as 5000 eggs at once (which sounds absolutely horrifying).
Habitat and Location
Not only does the lone star tick have a large distribution along the southeast of the US, but they also seem to be rapidly spreading. They now range from Florida to as high as Maine, and even spreads as far west as Texas and Nebraska.
They are most likely to exist in more forested areas, as those areas make it easier for them to find prey, such as white-tailed deer.
Watch this video to learn more about ticks and be able to identify them: