Ticks are tiny menaces that seem to follow us everywhere. They lurk in grasses, trees, and some of our most beloved outdoor spaces, threatening to latch on and spread diseases galore. But one tick that doesn’t often get individualized attention is the lone star tick.
You’ll likely spot the lone star tick in Texas and surrounding areas, especially in warmer months. The entomology and unique features of lone star ticks make them stand out, but that also means you might need to rethink your approach to tick bite prevention and care.
- The lone star tick is a type of tick commonly found in states throughout the South, including Texas. It’s easily identifiable by white markings — either a single dot or many streaks — on its brown body.
- Lone star ticks don’t cause Lyme disease but can carry other infectious diseases. Their bites may also cause allergic reactions or alpha-gal syndrome, which leads to a food allergy.
- If you have a lone star tick on you, carefully remove it with tweezers and see your doctor for the next steps.
- Keep ticks away by maintaining a tidy and clean lawn. Always check yourself, your pets, and others for ticks when you come inside.
Meet the Lone Star Tick
The lone star tick, scientific name amblyomma americanum, is a common North American insect that you might spot in your yard or community. They’re a bit bigger than other ticks you might see — like the black-legged tick or American dog tick — but still small enough to easily avoid detection.
Female lone star ticks are easy to identify thanks to a classic single white dot (“the “lone star”) that rests in the center of their brown bodies. Males don’t have one spot; instead, they have many streaks or dots of white pigment around the outer edge of their bodies.
While it might be relatively easy to spot an adult tick, you also should keep your eyes peeled for ticks in different stages of their life cycle.
Ticks have four life stages:
- Nymphal stage,
- Larval stage
- Adult stage
Like other tick species, lone star ticks feed on the blood of humans and animals. They rely on their hosts to provide regular blood meals so that they can reproduce quickly.
Where Can I Find the Lone Star Tick?
You can find the lone star tick in the Lone Star state; these pests can be found throughout Texas, especially in areas with high grass or vegetation. The lone star tick is common in the southern and eastern United States, but it’s mostly found in states throughout the south.
You’ll likely find ticks in wooded and brushy areas like forests, fields, and sometimes even public parks.
Health Risks of the Lone Star Tick
Like its cousins, the lone star tick can be a disease-causing pest. Most health risks associated with lone star ticks are short-lived and respond well to treatment. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take tick-borne illnesses seriously.
Even if you don’t get sick from a bite, you may still experience an allergic reaction; some reactions are severe enough to cause anaphylaxis. However, most people who encounter lone star ticks and face health consequences as a result experience illnesses such as:
- Heartland virus disease
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
- Ehrlichiosis (due to E. chaffeensis and E. ewingii)
- Bourbon virus disease
- Southern Tick-Associated Rash Illness (STARI)
It’s important to note that lone star ticks do not cause Lyme disease. However, they can cause STARI, which may lead to a circular rash that looks a lot like early Lyme disease. STARI is its own disease, though, and it’s one that’s not entirely understood.
However, studies show that STARI is not caused by Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease. Sometimes, STARI causes symptoms like fever, headache, and muscle pains, in addition to a rash.
Bitten by a Tick? Here’s What to Do
Clearly, dealing with a lone star tick bite isn’t something to do if you can at all avoid it. But if you find a tick, don’t panic. Getting the tick off your body as quickly as you can will help you lower the risk of getting tick-borne diseases. Here’s what you should do as soon as you spot the tick:
- Remove the tick. Use tweezers or a similar tool to get as close to the point where the tick is attached to your skin as possible. Pull on the tick, using steady pressure, until it’s removed. Do not burn the tick or coat it with anything.
- Set the tick somewhere safe and save it. If you can’t keep the tick for identification, take a picture of it. Bring the tick or your photo with you to your doctor to help them determine which tick species you’re dealing with.
- Wash the area. Using warm water and plenty of soap, gently wash the area where you found the tick. Rubbing alcohol also works in a pinch.
- Visit your doctor. Even if you’re pretty sure the tick bite didn’t cause any problems, it’s best to consult healthcare providers, particularly if you live in an area with lots of ticks. It’s especially important to see your doctor if you notice other symptoms, like a fever, headache, or fatigue.
Tick Control in Texas: Tips for Staying Safe
Take steps to protect yourself and rid your yard of ticks to avoid them altogether. Texas is home to all kinds of wildlife and vegetation, which naturally attracts high numbers of pests to the area.
But you can outsmart these little buggers with a few simple lifestyle changes. When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to reach out to a pest control professional for advice.
Methods for Tick Control at Home
Ticks can only survive for about two to three days in homes. If they do manage to make it inside, they probably won’t last long. As a result, you can focus most of your tick prevention efforts on your home’s exterior.
Make your home and yard less attractive to ticks and keep them far away with these tips:
- Keep Things Tidy. Make sure you regularly mow the lawn, trim down lush vegetation, and remove overgrown plants that can serve as tick habitats.
- Repel Existing Ticks. Use a tick repellent containing DEET, permethrin, or another EPA-registered ingredient on clothing and your skin to drive ticks away.
- Block Your Yard. Ticks can easily hitch a ride to your property on wildlife. Keep animals out of your yard by fencing it and eliminating tempting food sources.
- Go on Tick Patrol. Always check yourself, your children, and your pets thoroughly for ticks anytime you’ve been outdoors.
- Be Smart. When it’s time to head outside, make sure you layer up. Wear long pants, shirts, socks, and outerwear to cover your ankles, wrists, and the rest of your skin.
When to Call a Pest Control Professional for Ticks
If you’re noticing ticks all around your home despite your best efforts, it may be time to call in a pest control professional. While you can discourage and avoid ticks, you might not be able to eliminate them on your own.
A professional will use appropriate treatments and help you further protect your property from ticks so that you can get back to enjoying the outdoors worry-free.