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Tick-Borne Diseases

Contact the Florida Department of Health


Ticks in Florida

Ticks are an important source of disease within the United States. They typically are found in wooded areas or areas with long grass. Ticks feed on the blood of animals and can spread diseases through their bites, although not all tick bites result in illness. Ticks in the early stages of life (larva stage) usually feed on small animals like mice and birds. Older stages of ticks (nymphs and adults) can feed on humans and larger animals. Spring and summer are the most common seasons for tickborne diseases to occur in northern states, but tickborne diseases can occur throughout the year in Florida.

The most common diseases that come from ticks in Florida are ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other spotted fever illnesses. Symptoms of tick-borne diseases usually start within two weeks of being bitten. Although there are disease-specific symptoms such the bull’s eye rash that can be seen in some cases of Lyme disease, the most common symptoms for tick-borne disease are fever, headache, and muscle pain. These symptoms may also be seen with many other types of illnesses. Therefore, if you become ill after recently being in an area that is wooded or has long grass, it is always important to tell your health care provider that you were in tick habitat so that tick-borne diseases are considered. These diseases can be treated with appropriate antibiotics.

Ways to Prevent Tick Bites

  • Use repellant that contains 20-30% DEET
  • Apply permethrin to clothing and gear
  • Walk in the center of paths and trails
  • Perform regular tick checks on yourself, your family, and your pets
  • Shower soon after being in tick habitat
  • Use veterinarian recommended products to keep ticks off pets
  • Keep grass, shrubs and trees close to your residence trimmed

Information About Ticks Found in Florida

  • The Tick Life Cycle
  • Black-Legged Tick
  • Lone Star Tick
  • American Dog Tick
  • Gulf Coast Tick
  • Bont Tick *Not from florida, may be brought in from the Caribbean*
  • Argasid Tick ("Soft Tick")

Tick Life Cycle

General tick life cycle (may vary depending on tick species)

General tick life cycle

Most people are infected by nymphal stages during the spring and summer. Nymphs are often small enough to escape notice and so can stay attached longer than adults, increasing risk of disease transmission.

black leggged tick

Species Name

Ixodes scapularis

Seasonal Abundance

April-August: Larvae and Nymphs

September-May: Adults

Primary Hosts

Larvae and Nymphs: Reptiles (skinks and snakes), birds, and some rodents

Adults: Larger animals including cattle and humans

Associated Diseases

Lyme Disease, Babesiosis

More Information

Black-legged tick at University of Florida IFAS Extension:http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/document_in300

Lone Star tick

Species Name

Amblyomma americanum

Seasonal Abundance

Larvae: June-November

Nymphs: February-October

Adults: April-August (peak in July)

Primary Hosts

Larvae and Nymphs: Small mammals and birds, do not feed on rodents

Adults: Deer, cattle, and humans

Associated Diseases

Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis, STARI

More Information

Lone star tick at Texas A&M University Entomology:http://insects.tamu.edu/fieldguide/cimg370.html

American dog tick

Species Name

Dermacentor variabilis

Seasonal Abundance

Larvae: July-February

Nymphs: January-March

Adults: March-September

Primary Hosts

Larvae and Nymphs: Almost exclusively small rodents, particularly mice and cotton rats

Adults: Large variety of mammals and humans

Associated Diseases

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever

More Information


American dog tick at University of Florda IFAS Extension:http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/document_in781 

Gulf Coast tick

Species Name

Amblyomma maculatum 

Seasonal Abundance

Nymphs: February-August

Adults: March-November

Primary Hosts

Larvae and Nymphs: Small rodents and ground dwelling birds

Adults: Large variety of mammals and humans (primarily ears of large mammals)

Associated Diseases

Rickettsia parkeri

More Information


Gulf Coast tick at Texas A&M University Entomology:http://insects.tamu.edu/feature/tick/

Bont Tick

Species Name

Amblyomma variegatum

Seasonal Abundance

*Not currently in Florida, could be introduced from the Caribbean*

Associated Diseases

African tick-bite fever, Heartwater in ruminants, and Dermatophilosis (skin infection)

More Information


Bont tick at the University of Florida:http://entomology.ifas.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/ticks/tropical_bont_tick.htm

Argasid tick also know as the

Family

Argasidae

Life Cycle

Adult females can feed and lay eggs several times during their lifetime. Soft tick species may also undergo more than one nymphal molt before reaching the adult stage.

Habitat

Animal shelters or burrows, caves, poor-quality human dwellings

Associated Diseases

Ehrlichiosis/Anaplasmosis, STARI