Texas is one of the states with various species of ticks. All ticks in the state can bite humans and they can spread diseases to humans and animals.
Lyme disease is frequently spread by ticks that are in contact with a human host for a long time.
Ticks are present all around Texas, especially around Harris County where almost 200 Lyme disease cases have been confirmed over the past few decades.
Many tick bites also go on undocumented as they don’t spread diseases or they don’t cause allergic reactions.
6 Common Ticks in Texas
Here are some of the most common ticks in the state and the areas of Texas they live in.
1. Gulf Coast Tick
The brown Gulf Coast Tick (Amblyomma maculatum) grows to 6-8mm as an adult. It has a widespread distribution in Texas, it bites animals, pets, and humans.
Host preferences are seen between nymphs and adults. Smaller nymphs may only feed on small birds and rodents.
Adults have been spotted on large animals, pets, and humans.
Multiple types of diseases are spread by this species. Ticks, in general, are a Lyme disease vector spread.
This species is the most important spread vector for the American canine hepatozoonosi as well as for The Rocky Mountain Spotty Fever.
In extreme cases, the bite of the tick leads to pet paralysis. Notable cases include temporary dog paralysis when the bitten pet cannot be more for at least 24 hours.
These types of ticks can be picked up in long intervals from March to November.
April marks the period with the highest associated risk of the adult tick bite.
The beginning of June to the beginning of July marks the most important yearly activity of Gulf Coast Nymphs.
Distribution: Southern and Southeastern parts of Texas
2. American Dog Tick
The American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis) is one of the most common types of ticks in Texas. As its name suggests, it affects dogs but it also bites people.
A high risk of disease spreading is specific to this species as well.
It can also bite humans leading to all types of diseases such as Lyme disease, rabbit fever, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
A scheduled checkup might still be necessary even if there are no initial symptoms following the bites.
It can take a few days for symptoms such as fever to appear in humans.
Dogs may be even more affected by The American Dog Tick.
Some of the dog-specific bite symptoms include severe lethargy and blood in the urine.
While similar to other ticks in feeding habits, this species is known for its preference for a single host instead of switching hosts.
Distribution: Eastern Texas
3. Lone Star Tick
Lone Star Ticks (Amblyomma americanum) have a red-brown color. Females of the species show a distinctive dorsal white spot that inspires their names.
This is a species that is mostly found in woodlands. To a lesser extent, the species can also be found next to woodlands.
A small area between woodlands and other areas with vegetation such as grassland may also be a common space for Lone Star Ticks.
The species is aggressive and it carries viruses that may transmit all types of human diseases.
Ehrlichiosis is one of the diseases transmitted by the Lone Star Tick. In humans, it manifests itself with fever, nausea, vomiting, and muscle aches.
This species attached itself to humans passing along woodlands and grasslands next to woodlands by waiting for a host which it detects through movement or carbon dioxide (ie. breath).
Even worse reactions in humans can be seen by the bite of this tick. Humans can develop meat allergies after a Lone Star Tick Bite.
Breathing difficulties are specific to those who develop meat allergies following the bite of this tick.
Distribution: Eastern Texas
4. Eastern Black-legged Tick
Some of the earliest invertebrates to become active in the season are Eastern Black-legged Ticks (Ixodes scapularis). This partially black species can bite humans.
Ticks of this group prefer to bite and feed on deer blood. They actively look for deer and they can be picked up in areas where deer is common in the state.
Pineywoods are a specific habitat of Texas for deer and these ticks.
Humans can also get bitten by the Eastern Black-legged Tick which can transmit Lyme and other diseases.
These diseases aren’t picked up from deer but from rodents, which these ticks might also feed on.
Fever is one of the most common side effects of its bites in humans.
This species is further known for spreading malaria-like diseases.
As with all ticks, immediate removal helps keep viruses that cause these diseases away.
In rare cases, infections may cause problems in the treatment of these diseases.
Distribution: Eastern Texas
5. Brown Dog Tick
Brown Dog Ticks (Rhipicephalus sanguineus) are another type of tick that can bite both dogs and humans.
It has statewide distribution and a high associated risk of getting indoors via their dog hosts.
These ticks attach themselves to the head of the dog where they can bite and keep on feeding on its blood.
They can also bite humans and cause diseases such as Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
However, Brown Dog Ticks in Texas don’t spread as many diseases in the state as in other parts of the world.
This species can also spread Mediterranean Spotted Fever in Europe.
You can identify the species of dogs by their small 2-3mm body and brown base color with dark brown dorsal areas.
Distribution: Throughout Texas
6. Cayenne Tick
Cayenne Ticks (Amblyomma cajennense) are easier to identify based on their larger body and brighter color.
A yellow-brown color with dark brown sections is specific to this species. It can reach a size of up to 5mm, twice as large as other types of species in Texas.
This type of tick lives in tropical and subtropical climates.
It prefers to limit its Texas presence to the extreme Southeastern territories of the state.
As with all ticks here, it can also bite humans. It may spread Lyme disease but it’s also one of the species most likely to get Texas horses sick as well.
Cayenne Ticks spreads Equine Piroplasmosis to horses, zebras, donkeys, but also dogs.
Grassy habitats in Southern Texas with horses are among the most likely habitats this tick can bite humans in.
Distribution: Southeastern Texas
Tick Season in Texas
Spring and summer are the periods when most ticks are active in Texas. Various species of ticks are found from March onwards.
April marks the first month with high tick activity in the state. June and July are also high peak periods with a high risk of picking up ticks when outdoors.
These periods tend to be differentiated by the age of the tick. Adult ticks that are likely to survive a couple of years are more likely to be active in the spring while nymphs appear late in the season.
Warmer months, in general, are an ideal feeding and breeding time for ticks in Texas.
Lyme Disease in Texas
Lyme Disease has been documented in Texas on multiple occasions but is generally low compared to other states.
Almost 2000 Lyme Disease cases have been confirmed in Texas over the past few decades.
Some of the areas with the most bites and cases include.
- Travis County
- Harris County
- Tarrant County
- Dallas County
- Denton County
Higher than an average number of cases have also been reported in the Southern counties.
What to Do When You Are Bitten By Texas Ticks
Tick bites are documented in thousands across Texas. Some of them are serious while many aren’t documented as they pose no threat when immediately removed. Here’s what to do if you’re bitten by one of the ticks in Texas.
Remove the tick with tweezers
Today, there are many tick removal kits available in stores. Most people who live in areas without ticks may not have access to these kits.
Tweezers can be used instead of professional kits to remove the tick.
Ticks need to be grabbed by their head, close to the skin in the bitten area with tweezers.
They need to be pulled out in a vertical motion.
Removal movement such as twisting might break the body of the tick and still let its head inside the skin.
This is why you may need to use a flashlight or the camera light of a smartphone to check the skin for any tick traces once removed with tweezers.
Optional – Send the tick for identification to a cooperative extension office
Most bites followed by immediate removal pose no serious health risk.
However, there’s always a chance the bite transmitted a virus that may cause a disease such as Lyme disease.
There are ways to check if the tick involved is carrying these viruses.
You can add the tick to a zipped bag and send it to a tick lab cooperative. This is where the tick gets tested for carrying pathogens.
The results should show if the tick was carrying bacteria or viruses.
A tick-testing facility can provide crucial information on the type of tick and its disease-carrying attributes even in the disease incubation period.
It can take days for the symptoms of a tick bite that carries diseases to become visible.
Clean the bitten area with alcohol
You can clean the bitten area with alcohol once the tick is removed and discarded or placed in a zipped bag for investigation.
Tapping movements are recommended, instead of rubbing, to avoid further skin irritation.
Alcohol disinfects the area and it may kill any viruses carried by the tick.
Flush the tick down the toilet
Removed ticks can be flushed or crushed. They should not be released back into nature or in the yard as they can survive for days and find a new host.
This is also a good time to check for other ticks on your clothes or skin.
People can pick up multiple ticks when out in nature and especially when raising pets or animals.
Ticks can easily spread from birds to pets and then to humans.
A lifespan of up to 2 years is specific to ticks with a host.
They go through all of their life stages in this interval. From an egg to an adult tick, they can survive up to 2 years and they need to be killed when removed from the skin.
Call your doctor in the case of rashes, nausea, fewer, or other symptoms
A doctor’s visit may not be needed in the case of most tick bites.
Incomplete tick removal from the skin as well as symptoms such as nausea or fewer, specific to Lyme Disease cases, prompt a hospital or a doctor’s visit.
Most bites may not require immediate attention but you should pay attention to how you feel for the next few days for any symptoms such as fever, even within minimum limits.
Alternatively, you can call your doctor to discuss your bite and your symptoms to have a plan in case you feel any symptoms.
11 Ways to Prevent Ticks in Texas
Ticks in Texas can be prevented by following general tips against ticks. Diseases they spread and their painful bites can be prevented by the following tips.
1. Wear long sleeve clothes
Long sleeve clothes are among the ideal clothes to wear when out in nature.
Ticks quickly attach themselves to clothes and they may then seek out a bare skin area to bite.
Guide by body warmth and by human or animal breath, they can move on a host until they find naked skin to bite.
Pants should also be tucked in socks or boots when hiking, trekking, or camping.
Many ticks are found on grasses where they await passing hosts which means humans may easily be bitten in the ankle area.
Long sleeve clothes are also ideal against other bugs such as mosquitoes when spending time out in nature.
2. Apply a DEET repellent when out in nature
DEET repellent with a minimum 20% concentration can be applied on the skin.
Other types of repellents may also be used, especially when spending time out in areas with dense vegetation.
Woodlands in the state are particularly known to be a home for ticks, together with grasslands.
You can apply the repellent before going for a walk in the woodlands or before exploring grasslands when camping or spending time out in nature.
3. Groom dogs regularly
Dogs carry ticks such as The American Dog Tick. This species can easily bite humans as well.
Dogs tend to spend more time in tall vegetation around the backyard, in parks, or when walking out in nature.
Pet dogs are considerably more vulnerable to tick bites which may even paralyze them.
Regular dog grooming rituals are among the recommended methods to keep dogs safe and your home tick-free.
Dogs can pick up ticks when in contact with other dogs that have ticks, not only when they’re out spending time in nature.
Checking your dog after a walk in the park is also recommended to ensure there are no ticks carried back to the house.
4. Check pets after outdoor travel
Pets can carry all types of ticks indoors. Small pets such as cats are particularly vulnerable to ticks, together with dogs.
Cats chase mice and rats. These are known for carrying all types of ticks which are of a higher risk than ticks on other animals.
Studies show ticks pick up Lyme disease from rodents which means they don’t pick it up from hosts such as deer or boars.
Rodents spread different types of diseases. Ticks feed on their blood and eventually get picked up by cats.
It’s a matter of time before cats bring ticks back home.
Regular grooming routines are recommended for all pets, including cats.
5. Don’t walk in shaded areas with bushes due to high moisture
Ticks may live in grasslands but they prefer moist areas and even partial shade.
They rarely hang out in direct sunlight to avoid dehydration. Most ticks can easily be picked up walking among trees, shrubs leave on the ground, and grasses in shaded areas.
Tall vegetation around the house where sunlight cannot penetrate may also be a breeding ground for ticks.
6. Clean bird feeders
Bird feeders around the property may carry ticks and fleas.
Ticks also attach themselves to birds and may end up on humans that go back to bird feeders.
Bird feeders should be kept clean at all times. Regular sanitation routines help keep these areas clean.
7. Check yourself after spending time outdoors
Almost any person can carry ticks when spending time outdoors, in vegetation with ticks.
It’s always worth checking your clothes and your skin after your return from hiking or camping.
Ticks in Texas may also travel on clothes and luggage. Make sure to check all of the items used in camping such as tents and backpacks for ticks.
Examining your skin when you take a shower after spending time outdoors is also recommended. All itches are possible tick bites that need to be investigated.
8. Hike and travel on trails
Trails are an established path out in nature. Most old trails in Texas are well kept, without any vegetation.
Popular trails don’t even have grass, plants, or shrubs on them.
Venturing out even a few feet may put you in a danger zone as dense vegetation is where ticks live and wait for a host.
Ticks have been shown to climb grass, shrubs, and plants. They wait for a host with their wide open front legs, ready to quickly attach themselves.
Movement and body heat are some of the indications ticks rely on to find a new host.
Camping outside dedicated camping areas might also put you in the position where you need to set up camp in an area with dense vegetation.
Trails and designated camping areas that are clean and where vegetation is trimmed are ideal for safe time spent out in nature.
9. Don’t store clothes outside
Camping is also one of the times when clothes might pick up ticks when stored outside.
Even work clothes stored outside of the house may carry ticks as you move around the garden and the backyard.
Clothes should always be stored indoors or in bags or backpacks when out camping.
Tents and other accessories such as towels should be stored in closed bags which ticks and other bugs don’t have access to.
10. Refrain from petting or getting in contact with wild animals
Petting squirrels or rabbits may seem like a good idea. Coming up close to these animals might not be easy.
However, some wild animals may be lured with food. You should refrain from coming in contact with these animals as they may carry ticks.
Encouraging wild animals on your property is also not advisable.
Wild cats or rabbits may bring in ticks that multiply on your property. Keeping these animals out may require erecting fences.
Keeping all foods away from easy access in the yard is another method to keep wild animals away.
Stray dogs may also carry ticks and spread them to your home or pets. You should always check your dog after coming in contact with strays.
Red Foxes and Gray Foxes are also known for spreading ticks.
These types of wild animals may enter your property at night. You should keep all vegetation trimmed so that ticks from foxes and other animals don’t spread and breed.
11. Have a yard cleaning routine
Some areas of Texas such as Dallas are particularly known to be a habitat for disease-spreading ticks as not all ticks carry diseases.
Lone Star Ticks are highly common in areas of the state such as Fort Worth. As with all types of ticks, it’s important to maintain a clean yard and a trimmed lawn to prevent them from settling around the house.
Removing dead leaves off the ground and clearing dead vegetation is also recommended to diminish their hiding and breeding places. Where possible, you should always allow for as much sunlight as possible as ticks always look for shaded areas or high moisture areas.