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Ticks of New Jersey

The Lone Star Tick

Ambylomma americanum (L.)

Although lone star ticks may be found along coastal areas of some northeastern states, central New Jersey marks the northern extent of significant inland populations of this species. It is found as far south as Florida and west to Texas. Throughout its range, the lone star tick may be quite abundant and, coupled with its aggressive behavior, is considered a serious pest to humans, livestock, and wildlife. In New Jersey, it is common in wooded rural and suburban areas from Monmouth to Cape May Counties.

The life cycle of the lone star tick is similar to that of the blacklegged tick, with several notable differences. Unlike blacklegged ticks, which acquire hosts passively through ambush (questing on vegetation or in the litter awaiting a passing host), the lone star tick is also a hunter and will actively pursue hosts by moving towards a carbon dioxide gradient or source of vibration. Because the lone star tick seems resistant to hot, dry conditions that may result in desiccation of other tick species, all active stages will quest above ground on vegetation. In lone star tick-infested areas, it is common to brush against vegetation and acquire one or more clusters of several hundred or more larvae or “seed ticks.” Again, this questing behavior increases the chances of encountering larger mammal hosts. Consequently, although the lone star tick is known to feed on a variety of small mammals and birds, it most often feeds on white-tailed deer.

The seasonal distribution of lone star ticks is similar to that of blacklegged ticks, except there is no fall adult activity peak. The peak activity period of lone star tick adults is mid-April through mid-June, lagging behind that of adult blacklegged ticks by several weeks. Nymphs of both species are most active between mid-May and mid-July, while larvae appear in significant numbers beginning in late July through September. The activity periods of the lone star tick tend to be of longer duration compared to blacklegged ticks, and during their respective activity peaks, lone star ticks are typically more abundant than blacklegged ticks within the same areas. It should also be noted that adult and nymphal lone star ticks are also active during the principal Lyme disease transmission season. Because of its activity during a period of known disease transmission risk, combined with its large numbers and very aggressive behavior, the lone star tick may achieve greater public health significance as more is learned about the extent of HME and STARI in New Jersey.

 

 

 
Lone star life stages
[Photo courtesy of Lynette Schimming]
[Lone Star Tick - Larvae]
[Lone Star Tick - Nymph]
[Lone Star Tick - Female]
[Lone Star Tick - Male]
 
lone star
[Lone Star Ticks infesting the ear of a white-tailed deer - photo courtesy of T.L. Schulze]
 
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