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A source for information on ticks

SOFT TICKS       Family Argasidae

After the egg stage, six-legged soft tick larvae immediately seek blood meals and undergo a molt.  Following this molt, soft ticks enter the nymphal stage, during which time they undergo several more molts. Soft ticks grow larger after each molt and feed many times during this stage of development.

Unlike hard ticks, soft ticks do not have a protective scutum. Their mouthparts also are not readily visible when viewed from above. These mouthparts consist of two palps and one hypostome. The barbed hypostome is capable of penetrating human skin and is not easily removed. In some cases, the hypostome may remain within the host even after the soft tick has been removed.

Some common soft tick species are the fowl tick and the relapsing fever tick. Like hard ticks, soft ticks are known to be vectors of various bacteria and diseases. Among them are Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, babesiosis, ehrlichiosis, tularemia and tick-borne relapsing fever. Proper removal of soft ticks is necessary to prevent infection.

A pair of bent-nose tweezers should be used to remove the tick. Take care not to puncture the body of the tick, as this can release more harmful bacteria.

General Characteristics and Habits SOFT TICKS (Family Argasidae)
Male and female soft ticksare similar in appearance, with no dorsal plate (scutum) to distinguish the sexes as in hard ticks. The capitulum which bears the mouth parts is located beneath the anterior margin of the body. The spiracles or respiratory openings lie on the sides of the body above the third and fourth pairs of legs. Although some species of soft ticks feed on humans, they are more common on birds and occasionally are found on bats and other small mammals. The sexes can be distinguished by the shape of the genital opening which in males is circular or crescent-shaped and in females is a transverse split, wider than long.

Genus Ornithodoros:
Ornithodoros is the most important of the four genera of soft ticks. The ticks in this genus have a more globular body without the sutural line found in the various species of Argas. The body is roughened or warty in appearance with tiny protuberances, called "mammillae." The hypostome has well-developed teeth. Several species are known in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, of which four are known vectors of relapsing fever in the United States.

The relapsing fever ticks, Ornithodoros species, are seldom seen by the average person since they are primarily "nest ticks" which can survive starvation for months or even years. Human beings are occasionally bitten by these hungry ticks and contract cases of relapsing fever in mountain cabins, in caves, or near wild animal burrows. For example, O. hermsi is found at high elevations in the West, particularly Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, Nevada, and Colorado, where it parasitizes small mammals such as the western chipmunk (Eutamias) or tree squirrels (Tamiasciurus). Occasionally, people sleeping in mountain cabins come in contact with infected ticks and contract relapsing fever. Ornithodoros parkeri is a large species which attacks man and rodents and is found in nine western states. It is an efficient vector of relapsing fever and can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Ornithodoros Turicata, also a large tick, is found in the southern and western United States. It is found in caves, holes made by burrowing animals and at campsites. Its hosts include rodents, snakes, terrapins and various domestic animals, as well as man. Even after long starvation, it is an efficient vector of relapsing fever. Both O. Turicata and O. parkeri transmit the spirochete of this disease to their offspring as far as the fourth generation. Ornithodoros talaje occurs in southern United States.

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