#A tick is a small arachnid that lives off the blood of mammals, birds, and occasionally reptiles and amphibians. Ticks are carriers of a number of diseases, including Lyme disease. There are two families of ticks common to the United States; hard ticks- which have thick outer shells made of chitin, soft ticks- which have a membrane like skin. Soft ticks typically live in crevices and emerge briefly to feed, while hard ticks will attach themselves to the skin of a host for long periods of time. Tick bites look like mosquito bites, but can sometimes bruise or resemble a bullseye.

Ticks are second only to mosquitoes as vectors of human disease. Hard ticks can transmit human diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, tularemia, equine encephalitis, Colorado tick fever, and several forms of ehrlichiosis. Additionally, they are responsible for transmitting livestock and pet diseases, including babesiosis, anaplasmosis and cytauxzoonosis. Soft ticks transmit tick-borne relapsing fever spirochetes such as Borrelia turicatae, Borrelia parkeri and Borrelia hermsii. Generally, tick-borne diseases correspond to a specific tick-host combination, and are limited in their geographical extent. For example, nearly 90% of all Lyme disease cases have been reported in the Northeastern part of the US. Rick Vetter of UC Riverside has shown in published work that tick-induced Lyme disease rashes in California are often misidentified as brown recluse spider bites, when, in fact, brown recluse bites have never been recorded in California.

Ticks are found in tall grass and shrubs where they will wait to attach to a passing host. Physical contact is the only method of transportation for ticks. Ticks do not jump or fly, although they may fall onto a host. Changes in temperature, day length, body heat or carbon dioxide respired from a nearby host are all signals that tell a tick to feed. They will generally drop off the animal when full, but this may take several days. Ticks have a harpoon-like structure in their mouth area, which allows them to anchor themselves firmly in place while feeding. The 'harpoon' has a series of barbs angled back, which is why they are so difficult to remove once they have penetrated a host.

To remove a tick use a small set of tweezers: grab the head, pulling slowly and steadily. There are a number of manufacturers that have produced tweezers specifically for tick removal.