The Michigan woodlands and grasslands are home to a wide variety of wildlife. While most people focus their attention on the Michigan wolves and black bears, few pause to consider what one of Michigan’s tiniest species may have in store. Michigan has a large population of common ticks that can spread unwanted diseases among humans and animals alike.
In this article, we will tell you all you need to know about the most common ticks living in Michigan. Including where they are found, what they look like, how to avoid them, and which diseases they may spread.
5 Common Ticks Found in Michigan
1. American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)
Distribution: Found all in forests and grassy areas all throughout Michigan.
Diseases: Rarely occur but are linked to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and tularemia.
The American Dog Tick gets its name due to its preference for feeding on domesticated dogs. However, it can also attach and feed on people as well.
The ticks are brown with white or gray markings. They have an oval-shaped body and are 5mm unengorged and 15mm engorged. The ticks are most active from May to November.
2. Blacklegged Tick (Ixodes scapularis)
Distribution: Found in most counties in Michigan, less prominent in eastern Michigan. Found on low forest vegetation near hiking paths and trails.
Diseases: Most commonly, Lyme disease. Other rare diseases include anaplasmosis, deer-tick virus, babesiosis, and ehrlichiosis.
The Blacklegged Tick is also known as the “deer tick” due to its preferred host of a white-tailed deer. Adults are generally 5mm in size unengorged.
Males are dark brown to black in color and do not spread Lyme disease. Females have the same coloring as males but will spread Lyme disease.
3. Lonestar Tick (Amblyomma Americanum)
Distribution: Found across the entire state of Michigan. Most commonly in wooded areas with thick underbrush or near meadows and streams.
Diseases: Tularemia, ehrlichiosis, and rocky mountain spotted fever.
The Lonestar tick gets its name from its unique coloring. Females have a brown shell with a large white dot in the middle. The ticks are most active from late spring to early fall.
The ticks are known to be extremely aggressive, attaching to anything that comes in their path. They are able to survive without a host for up to a full year.
4. Woodchuck Tick (Ixodes cookie)
Distribution: Found near dens of wild animals such as raccoons and skunks.
Diseases: Powassan encephalitis
While the woodchuck tick prefers wild animals, it will attach to domesticated animals and occasionally humans. When it is fully engorged, it is approximately the size of a sesame seed.
Woodchuck ticks look extremely similar to deer ticks. A microscopic investigation may need to be completed in order to determine the species. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease, while woodchuck ticks do not.
5. Brown Dog Tick (Rhipecephalus sanguineus)
Distribution: Found in shrubs, grass, or other tall vegetation. Occasionally found in kennels, breeders, or even homes.
Diseases: Canine babesiosis, canine ehrlichiosis, rocky mountain spotted fever.
Brown dog ticks get their name from their brownish color and their preference for dogs. They can attach to humans but rarely do so. They are about 3mm in size when un-engorged and 12mm when engorged. They take on a gray-blue color when engorged.
Brown dog ticks are one of the few species of ticks that can survive inside. That is why they can be dangerous when brought into a breeding facility or a home with multiple pets.
How to Avoid Ticks in Michigan
Now that you are aware of the most common ticks living in Michigan, it’s vital to understand how to avoid getting bit. Here are some common tips to follow to avoid getting bitten by ticks:
- Wear long pants and tuck them into your socks.
- Wear bug spray with less than 30% DEET.
- Pre-treat clothing with a chemical repellant like permethrin
- Stay towards the center of trails
- Avoid tick-infested areas (i.e., high grass, off-trail trekking, etc.)
In addition to following the common practices above, you should also check yourself and your animals for ticks anytime you go to a place that may have been infested by ticks. Make sure to check the following areas on your own body:
- Pubic area
- Back of knees
Additionally, you should check your animals’ armpits and behind their ears very carefully. Finally, you should shower within two hours of coming indoors as this will help wash away any unattached ticks.
What Should I Do If I’m Bitten by a Tick in Michigan?
If you find that you have been bitten by a tick, you should follow the following steps to remove it as quickly as possible:
- Use tweezers to get as close to your skin as possible
- Pull upward. Do not twist or jerk.
- Once the tick is removed, clean the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.
- Flush the tick down the toilet, or if you’d like to get it identified, pour rubbing alcohol on it and place it in a sealed bag.
It is essential to remove a tick as soon as it has been identified. This will help prevent the spread of any diseases. You will want to monitor yourself for up to 30 days for the following symptoms:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
If you experience any of the above symptoms, go see a doctor as soon as possible and make sure to mention the tick bite.
The Dangers Tick Pose in Michigan
While tick bites can be uncomfortable and a little unnerving, the bite itself is not the main concern. Ticks are known vectors of several diseases that can be harmful to both humans and animals alike.
One of the most common diseases passed from tick to human is Lyme disease. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause joint pain and even negatively impact your central nervous system. Whether in Michigan or any other state, it’s essential to be on the lookout for ticks and always see a doctor if experiencing symptoms after a tick bite.